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Saturday, October 16, 2010

Mugabe Ending Unity Deal?

Anyone who knows Mugabe’s political history won’t be surprised by this at all. He has a history of making political alliances for convenience and discarding allies at whim.

Zimbabwe’s president has said a power-sharing deal which expires in four months’ time should not be extended.

Robert Mugabe said the country should hold a referendum on a new constitution early in 2011 and then elections.

He said he was reluctant to renegotiate the unity deal as some events happening in the coalition were “foolish”.

Mr Mugabe has been sharing power with rival Morgan Tsvangirai since last year, under a deal worked out after disputed 2008 elections.

No, There should be no surprise at all.

Read the rest.

Friday, May 28, 2010

That’s the Way to Handle a Heckler

Kudos to Johnnie Carson, the Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, for his handling of a surprising heckler during his remarks at an Africa Day celebration. The surprising source? The Zimbabwean ambassador, Machivenyika Mapuranga. What could have been embarrassing, though, wasn’t quite a “tear down this wall” moment, but it is admirably frank and utterly right.

Carson silenced both the ambassador and the crowd when he started speaking again. Changing his tone, he scolded Zimbabwe by pointing out that such outbursts would have evoked vicious punishment in the southern African country, which has been ruled by revolutionary leader Robert Mugabe with an iron fist since the 1980s.

“You can sit in the audience in darkness, but the light will find you and the truth will find you,” Carson told Mapuranga, as event staff quietly tried to encourage the ambassador to leave.

Turning to the crowd, Carson said: “It seems that Robert Mugabe has some friends in the room tonight. Unlike in Zimbabwe, they are allowed to speak without oppression, because this is a democracy.”

Good job.

Read the rest.

Monday, March 01, 2010

A Bad Plan

Robert Mugabe continues to find creative new avenues to lead Zimbabwe down a path of self-destruction. He’s talented that way.

Statutory Instrument number 21 was imposed by Robert Mugabe, the president, without any consultation with his partners in the coalition government, notably Morgan Tsvangirai, the prime minister from the Movement for Democratic Change.

The law gives any relevant business with assets of more than $500,000 (€369,000, £333,500) just 45 days to submit a plan for achieving this transfer of ownership within five years. Companies based in Zimbabwe declined to disclose whether they were preparing any such plans.

But economists, business leaders and trade unionists warned Mr Mugabe’s law would wreck any chance of attracting foreign investment and strangle the economy’s weak recovery.

“We are just coming out of a self-inflicted economic crisis,” said Lovemore Matombo, head of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions. “This law could create fears that the process could be chaotic, just like the land reform, which will affect the economic recovery of the country. We do not need this right now as we need investment.”

Brilliant.

Read the rest.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

At Last, Some Fiscal Sanity

Unfortunately, the fiscal sanity isn’t happening here.

Tendai Biti, Zimbabwe’s new finance minister, on Wednesday halved spending plans for 2009 and cut revenue projections 40 per cent, in one of the first signs of change under the country’s new power-sharing government.

Presenting his first budget, Mr Biti, a member of the Movement for Democratic Change, said the government would operate on a cash budget basis: “What we gather is what we eat.”

It’s an awful shame when the finance minister from Zimbabwe--one of the most blighted, backward, and failing countries in the world--shows the kind of sense that our own leaders here in America can’t quite fathom. Live within your means. Try to honestly project your revenues. Cut spending instead of printing another trillion dollars.

This is the most positive change I’ve seen in Zimbabwe in a long time. Not because it represents a big step forward (given the actual value of the Zim dollar, I still wonder how they’ll manage to dig out of the hole Mugabe dug for the nation), but because it represents some real power sharing. This is the first meaningful thing that’s been done by a member of an opposition party in a long time.

I wouldn’t and don’t trust Mugabe to keep his word, to share power peacefully, or to allow the kinds of changes that might ultimately save Zimbabwe from the final collapse that would destroy the government and fairly force a civil war, but it’s nice to latch on to a little hope (and change!) now and again. Especially when it is embodied in good ideas.

Read the story.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Currency? We Don’ Need No Stinkin’ Currency.

Zimbabwe’s economy collapsed a long time ago and all that’s left is people sifting through the rubble. With every rational person understanding that the Zim dollar is worthless (and worth less by the day), the government has lifted the ban on using foreign currency.

Zimbabweans will be allowed to conduct business in other currencies, alongside the Zimbabwe dollar, in an effort to stem the country’s runaway inflation.

The announcement was made by acting Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa.

BBC southern Africa correspondent Peter Biles says the Zimbabwean dollar has become a laughing stock. A Z$100 trillion note was recently introduced.

Until now only licensed businesses could accept foreign currencies, although it was common practice.

Mugabe soldiers on as elected dictator for life, playing games with the MDC, and I can’t help but wonder: even if the MDC “wins’ and Mugabe were to retire to his squirreled away bank accounts overseas, what would they have won? Is there anything left to rebuild? Or is the ruin so complete that the entire nation, its infrastructure, schools, hospitals, and social structures will all need to be completely rebuilt?

My gut, sick and sad and angry, says that’s exactly what will need to happen. Mugabe, whenever he is finally gone, will leave only wreckage behind him and the Herculean task of rebuilding a nation from nearly nothing. 

Monday, January 26, 2009

For Zimbabwe: Something Better Than a Hunger Strike

I don’t mean to cruelly diminish Desmond Tutu’s hunger strike, but Zimbabwe’s problems are hardly going to be muted by his dietary choices. Admittedly, Jenny Des-Fountain’s food drive won’t make a dent in the Zimbabwe’s problems, but it might actually save a few lives.

Fiftieth birthdays are supposed to be special.

But a party was the last thing on Jenny Des-Fountain’s mind as her half century approached.

Jenny Des-Fountain will drive tonnes of donated food to Zimbabwe

“It just didn’t seem meaningful when Zimbabwe was going through what it was going through,” the blonde life-coach says.

“So I just got hold of my friends and said: ‘Come on guys, bring a bag of mealie-meal [maize porridge powder] along’, and they did.

“They brought beans and they brought fish as well and I ended up with a boot-load of food.”
[...]
Ms Des-Fountain puts the overwhelming response to her appeal down in part to the South African government’s inability to find a solution for Zimbabwe.

“What is our government doing? Let’s be honest - they’re not doing anything,” she says.

“People are calling me asking me what can we do. They wonder what they can do because our neighbours are suffering so much.”

Zimbabwe’s problems are such that Ms Des-Fountain’s truck is barely even a drop in the ocean.

But for Thulani’s village it will make a real difference.

For those with cholera or chronic malnutrition it may be the difference between life and death.

Zimbabwe needs more than a few truckloads of food--and even boatloads of food won’t solve the political and economic problems, either. But though she can’t save the nation nor all of its citizens, though she can’t remove Mugabe nor force recognition of the democratically elected government, she can help some people make it a few more days.

And while South Africa’s government has made a habit of giving Mugabe cover when criticism grows too loud, it’s good to see that some of South Africa’s citizens can still muster a little neighborly care for the citizens across the border.

Lovely woman.

On a completely different subject, can the Beeb’s web site ever run with normal-length sentences? Nearly every sentence on most of these stories is treated as a new paragraph and it drives me absolutely mad. I realize that typical journalist sentences aren’t measured in the same way as your typical essayist sentence, but it bugs me to see the way the Beeb site handles their copy. 

Thursday, October 09, 2008

231,000,000

No, that’s not the amount of my own, personal bailout check from Uncle Sugar (pity); it’s the newly revised Zimbabwean inflation rate.

imbabwe’s annual inflation rate - already the world’s highest - has soared to 231,000,000%, newly released official figures for July show.

The rise - from 11,200,000% last month - was largely due to increases in the prices of bread and cereals.

A landmark power-sharing deal between President Robert Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai has failed to ease the country’s economic crisis.

Ouch.

I’ve been so involved in watching our own nation’s political scrum that I’ve neglected to write about the situation in Zimbabwe. I’ll try to rectify that in the near future with a piece that I’ve had in my head for a number of weeks about why we can’t expect Zimbabwe’s power-sharing deal to work--and why if it does work, we should worry for the MDC.

There ain’t no justice for Zimbabwe, is there?

For now, though, read the story.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

All Your Zeroes Are Belong to Us

What do you do when hyper-inflation makes your currency worth less than the paper that it is printed on? Lop a few zeroes off here and there and everything will be right as rain.

Zimbabwe’s economy is unravelling at such a pace that the central bank is set to slash yet more zeroes from the country’s increasingly worthless currency.

State media on Sunday quoted Gideon Gono, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor and one of the members of the ruling elite targeted by fresh western sanctions last week, as saying he would extend a currency policy that has so far failed to stem hyperinflation.

“This time, we will make sure that those zeroes that would come knocking on the governor’s window will not return,” Mr Gono was quoted as saying on Saturday in a speech to farmers.

Independent estimates put Zimbabwe’s inflation rate well above the official 2.2m per cent, prompting the introduction last week of a 100bn Zimbabwean dollar note. Even state media reported Mr Gono’s comments “drew laughter” from his audience.

The governor is expected to chop three or six zeroes from the currency, following a three-zero cut in 2006.

Beside the inflationary zeroes haunting Mr Gono, analysts and some opposition politicians say the crumbling economy in what was once a regional bread basket is perhaps the single greatest factor that might force Robert Mugabe, president, into relaxing his grip on power.

Read the story.

To the MDC negotiators: just say no to powersharing. Anything that leaves Mugabe with official standing or official government seat is purely a lie. Over these past two decades he has destroyed an economy, watched as infrastructure crumbled, ruined the country’s largest industry (farming, led an violent and oppressive regime, starved political opponents, stolen elections, and still, somehow, maintained some claim to legitimacy. That lie can’t be tolerated any longer.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Check in the Guinness Book of World Records Under Holy Damn, Can That Be Right?

This is an amazing story--amazing in that the country of Zimbabwe still exists as a mostly cohesive entity. That the economy hasn’t collapsed to the point that the government can no longer function just beggars belief.

Zimbabwe’s annual rate of inflation has surged to 2,200,000%, official figures have shown.

The figure is the first official assessment of prices in the troubled African nation since February, when the rate of inflation stood at 165,000%.

Zimbabwe, once one of the richest countries in Africa, has descended into economic chaos largely blamed on the policies of President Robert Mugabe.

Zim dollars are worthless--worth less, probably literally, than the paper the stuff is printed on. Which brings up the next story about Zim’s failed leadership:

It has come to this - Zimbabwe is about to run out of the paper to print money on.

Fidelity Printers & Refiners, the state-owned company that tirelessly churns out bank notes for the Mugabe regime, was thrown into a crisis early this month after a German company stopped supplying bank note paper because of concerns over Zimbabwe’s recent violent presidential election, widely seen as fraudulent by international observers.

The printing operation slowed drastically. Two-thirds of the 1000-strong workforce was ordered to take leave, and two of the three money-printing shifts were cancelled.

The result on the streets was an immediate cash crunch.

Intriguingly, if Fidelity continues to refuse to supply the special paper, it will become even more likely that Mugabe’s government will crumble. Without the truckloads of cash to pay off the cronies, military, and police, Mugabe’s true base of support may well crumble. With every passing year, Mugabe’s leverage on the people of the country erodes a touch more; unfortunately, it also leaves more dead, displaced, and unfed citizens suffering under his failing government, too.

It would be funny (although, ultimately, quite damaging) to see the government fail because it could no longer print money. What the democratic process has thus far failed to do may be accomplished by such a small thing as special paper.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Still Providing Cover for Tyrants

Leaders in Africa continue to provide cover for Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe to continue his illegitimate rule of the country. By resisting calls for sanction and continuing to suggest that the road forward is through a unity government, these leaders are doing their best to provide legitimacy to the tyrant: while no one can seemingly deny that he bullied, murdered, brutalized, and intimidated his way into office, they still imagine that no legitimate representative government can be established without Mugabe and his party.

What they seem to fail to understand is that no legitimate representative government can be recognized untilMugabe and his party no longer stand at the helm of the government. Until power has passed peacefully from Mugabe and to a democratically elected head of state, the government of Zimbabwe is a lie that was forced on its citizens at the barrel of a gun. Specifically, any government that preserves Mugabe’s presidency is a lie and an affront to Zimbabweans.

Leaders from the developed world and Africa failed on Monday to agree on how to deal with the crisis in Zimbabwe, which overshadowed a meeting between the Group of Eight and seven African heads of state.

The African leaders resisted pressure from the US and Europe for sanctions against the Mugabe regime, telling the western nations that they still saw scope for African diplomacy to lead to a power-sharing accord.

Appearing at a joint news conference with President George W. Bush, Jakaya Kikwete, president of Tanzania and chairman of the African Union, said: “The only area where we may differ is on the way forward.”

Last week the African Union called on both sides in the Zimbabwe crisis – President Robert Mugabe and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change – to come together in a national unity government. The call came after Mr Mugabe declared himself the winner of a presidential election run-off on June 27 which the MDC candidate, Morgan Tsvangirai, boycotted, citing violence against his supporters.

Mr Kikwete said: “We are saying no party can govern alone in Zimbabwe and therefore the parties have to work together.”

The continued assertion--even if only by implication--of Mugabe’s legitimacy is disgusting and shameful. Once again, Africa’s leaders are failing Africa’s citizens.

Read the story.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

On the Latest “Victory” for Robert Mugabe

I’ve been stuck on what I want to say about Zimbabwe for a few days now. When Robin left a comment noting that “the thugs won” I realized that at that moment there wasn’t much more for me to say. The thugs--Robert Mugabe and his goons--won through a program consisting of violence and terrorism. They did it with not precisely the complicity of other regional leaders, but certainly with folks like Thabo Mkebi making excuses and providing some cover and legitimacy.

Of course, even those African leaders are finding it harder to excuse the behavior of their old comrade. Sadly, any turn to overt criticism and something other than “quiet diplomacy” will be coming too late to support the change that the people of Zimbabwe deserve. Politics as usual in post-colonial Africa has betrayed the trust between the government and the governed. Democracy has not failed them; this turn of events has proven conclusively that there simply is no democracy in Zimbabwe.

The election was a sham. “Quiet diplomacy” is a lie. The people of Zimbabwe are paying. They are paying sometimes with their lives, with their health, and with a future that seems now to be irretrievably broken. The Mugabe apologists are speaking for one of the most brutal regimes in the world today and for a leader who has proven himself adept only at bullying his way to power. They should be ashamed.

In a country where the media is truly controlled by the government, where the demand for fair elections is met with murder, where the leader threatens a new civil war if the opposition party wins in fair elections, there can be no democracy. This isn’t just whiny progressives childishly complaining when they don’t get their way; this is a brutal government grinding its citizens into the dust.

The US Ambassador to Zimbabwe, James McGee, has been an unwavering voice of support for the citizens of Zimbabwe. We back home should be proud of him and the job he is doing.

... James McGee, the US ambassador in Harare, said 30,000 potential opposition supporters had been displaced from their homes as part of brutal tactics by the Mugabe government to swing the run-off in his favour.

Mr McGee, who was speaking by telephone from Harare, said the conditions ahead of the poll were the worst he had ever witnessed, while another western diplomat said Zanu-PF was determined to secure an election victory “at any cost”.

“It’s very, very obvious that there is political intimidation, there’s thuggery, there’s outright theft, murder, happening here in Zimbabwe,” Mr McGee said. “In my long diplomatic career, I have never seen anything comparable to this.”

Consider this: Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader from the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) who won the original election (although apparently not be enough) and recently dropped out of the new round of voting, has been harassed and arrested throughout the campaigning process. That stands as some of the more tender oppression in Mugabe’s Zimbabwe.

Amazingly, this doesn’t even touch on the mismanagement of the government that has left Zimbabwe’s schools, health care, infrastructure, and economy in ruins. Failed governments don’t often fail more dramatically than this one.

What remains for us to decide after reading through this recounting of vile governance is to find a way to effectively support the people of Zimbabwe in their hope for a good government. And, I believe, that means supporting Tsvangirai’s call for an African solution.

We have always maintained that the Zimbabwean problem is an African problem that requires an African solution. To this end, I am asking the African Union and SADC to lead an expanded initiative, supported by the United Nations, to manage the transitional process. We are proposing that the AU facilitation team, comprising eminent Africans, set up a transitional period which takes into account the will of the people of Zimbabwe. The African Union team would lead in the constituting and character of the transitional period. The transitional period would allow the country to heal. As the MDC, we have always said we will be magnanimous in our victory. Genuine and honest dialogue amongst Zimbabweans is the only way forward. The MDC is a people’s project; we value our county and our people.

I want to emphasize that the basis of any settlement must recognize the fundamental principle of democracy, that is, the respect for the will of the people to choose their own leadership. Over and above this, the Zimbabwe political solution must recognize the following – stability, inclusivity, acceptability, and credibility. The sum total of all this is legitimacy. A negotiated political settlement which allows the country to begin a national healing and the process of a) economic reconstruction; b) provision of humanitarian assistance and c) democratization would be in the best interest of the country.

For the sake of legitimacy throughout the governments of the region and for the sake of the legitimacy of any government that would be placed after any removal of Mugabe, this eloquent call for basic freedoms, good government, and the restoration of democracy seems right on. I wonder, though, how quickly surrounding nations will be to not only criticize Mugabe, but to use their own diplomatic levers as an effective lever to force Mugabe to negotiate the transfer of power? So far, none of the nations that make up the SADC or the AU has shown that kind of initiative or will in relation to Zimbabwe’s ongoing problems. And the UN is as toothless as an old lion--all roar, no bite.

There is no practical way for Western nations to take a direct part unless we are asked by the MDC--and even then it would be a risk. Mugabe plays the race card with brilliance and any belief that a new government is just a stooge for Western powers (specifically either the UK or the US) could lead to a weak new government. The best role we could play would simply be to extend our offers of knowledge, help, and friendship to the MDC and the citizens of Zimbabwe along with a promise to help them limp out of their economic crisis once a new and truly representative government is in place.

The people of Zimbabwe deserve better than Robert Mugabe; the SADC and AU have the opportunity to help make that “better” happen. To that end, I think Gideon Rachman of the Financial Times has a series of good suggestions that could do a good deal to help salvage Zimbabwe. As he says, though, the need to act is urgent. I urge you to read his piece--it’s an honest (and, in terms of Thabo Mbeki, blistering) look at the situation. It doesn’t read particularly hopeful, but it is unflinching about the prospects.

A last “must read” in this opening salvo is Counterterrorism Blog’s “Africa’s Shame and Zimbabwe’s Greater Threat. It answers the question of why we should care about the future of a small, landlocked country in Southern Africa. It leads to a longer post on another site.

More links follow in the extended entry.

Read the Rest...

Monday, June 09, 2008

Misplaced Optimism

When the citizens of Zimbabwe voted for change--a peaceful, democratic vote for change in the way their interests were represented by their government--I was hopeful that there would be a reasonably calm change in the government. I, very obviously, misplaced my faith in a big way. Here’s a report from the Beeb:

As the date for Zimbabwe’s presidential run-off approaches, state-sponsored violence has escalated sharply, according to human rights workers and opposition politicians in Zimbabwe who have given first-hand accounts to the BBC.

Andrew Makoni and Harrison Nkomo, both young human rights lawyers, fled to the safety of South Africa last week, fearing for their lives.

Five of Mr Makoni’s clients, all activists for the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), have been murdered over the past few weeks.

He says three of them had their eyes gouged out, and their tongues cut off.

I’ve been watching the news every day and it’s only getting worse.

Read the rest.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Is it True? Zimbabwe Could be Taking Steps Toward Freedom

Given the reports of irregularities and the pressure placed on voters, I imagined that ZImbabwe’s election would have the same dismal results as the last few elections. But the determination of the opposition--and, indeed, the faith peaceful, democratic change--looks to have overwhelmed even Mugabe’s ability to bully, buy, and cheat his way to victory.

That is a truly amazing thing. To his credit, and if these early reports are correct, he is doing what he needs to do to negotiate a peaceful exchange of power.

A resignation by Mr. Mugabe, one of Africa’s longest-serving leaders, would be a stunning turnabout in a country where he has been accused of consistently manipulating election results to maintain his lock on power.

There is no guarantee the negotiations will succeed, and the situation could still deteriorate. But a Western diplomat and a political analyst said the opposition was negotiating with Zimbabwe’s military, central intelligence organization and prisons chief.

“The chiefs of staff are talking to Morgan and are trying to put into place transitional structures,” said John Makumbe, a political analyst and insider in local politics who has spoken in the past in favor of the opposition.

“The chiefs of staff are not split; they are loyally at Mugabe’s side,” Mr. Makumbe said. “But they are not negotiating for Mr. Mugabe. They are negotiating for themselves. They are negotiating about reprisals and recriminations and blah blah blah. They are doing it for their own security.”

Amazing. There is reason for hope for Zimbabwe today--and if this all comes to pass, I will be celebrating soon.

If power does change hands--and if the new leadership proves to be devoted to liberalizing, responsible monetary policy, and finding ways to solve the current crisis, then it will be important for Western powers to be ready with offers of assistance in the transition. Rebuilding the economy, infrastructure, schools, and health care system will be a monumental task both in the sense of the effort involved and the potential to revive what was once the most promising nation in the region.

For the citizens of Zimbabwe, this is looking like a time for joy and celebration--but soon the hard work of rebuilding will bring its own pains. I’m hoping that the United States can find a way to be a productive partner in the rebuilding process, nurturing a relationship that will help bring peace and stability to a country that has lost far too many years to Mugabe.

If the moment of meaningful change has come, it will be because of people like the folks at Sokwanele who have worked so hard for so long to see the potential for something better. God willing, I will be able to meet some of them in the coming years in a nation of free men and women.

Read the rest.

HT to CentreRight. Update: Instapundit points to Gateway Pundit for more information.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Sokwanele’s Creative Use of Internet Technology

Check out what Sokwanele, one of Zimbabwe’s most powerful voices in support of non-violent, democratic change, is using Google Maps in a unique and powerful way. By mapping election irregularities Sokwanele is showing us just how “fair” the upcoming elections are going to be. For instance, I can see in Bulawayo, where I lived for a time when I was a boy, that there have been cases of political cleansing, violence, and disruptions of the right to freedom of association.

Clicking on one of the icons on the map brings up a synopsis of the story and a link to the incident in their database. The offenses can be filtered by incident type, too.

It may not change the results, but dictators like Mugabe don’t often do well with bright light shining on their transgressions.

I hate that Sokwanele’s creative use of the technology is so necessary, but glad that technology is serving a good cause.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Mugabe’s Government: Strangely Resistant to Change

Robert Mugabe’s government is signaling rather loudly that it will not only do what it can to influence the vote in upcoming elections, but that it might not abide by election results if they don’t like them.

Zimbabwe’s police chief has warned he will not let opposition “puppets” take power in elections later this month, state media reports.

Augustine Chihuri said President Robert Mugabe’s redistribution of white-owned land would never be reversed.
[...]
The MDC has gone to court to try to force the electoral commission to have more polling stations in urban areas - seen as opposition strongholds.

A report by the Zimbabwe Election Support Network earlier this week said there were an average of 2,022 voters per polling station in the capital, Harare, compared to 530 in Mr Mugabe’s home region of Mashonaland West.

In previous elections, thousands of people have been unable to vote in urban areas because of the massive queues.

Last week army chief General Constantine Chiwenga said:

“We will not support anyone other than President Mugabe, who has sacrificed a lot for this country.”

And last month, prison service head retired Major-General Paradzayi Zimondi told all his staff to vote for Mr Mugabe.

You might imagine that a country with six digit inflation, a wrecked economy, and little in the way of opportunities for its people might be in the mood for change. Not Obama level change, mind you, but real change that might allow the country to find its way out of the wilderness. In practice it hasn’t worked that way because of a combination of constitutional rule changes rigged to give the ruling government a head start in every election, strong arm tactics by government agencies, some remaining popularity because of Mugabe’s war record, a system of payoffs and corruption that has allowed Mugabe to influence the most powerful people in the country, no recognizable free press, and the dependency of voters on the largesse of the government.

But there was always the hope that an overwhelming response from voters might provide change when they finally grew tired of their government’s incompetence. For supporters of the MDC and other opposition organizations--not to mention we outsiders who hope only the best for Zimbabwe--can’t help but feel even more disheartened by the increased open defiance of democratic principles. Not surprised, necessarily, but deeply disappointed.

There is a point to be made from this, as well, for us about the dangers of dependence on the government for our livelihoods. I’m going to leave it alone for another day, though.

Read the rest.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

There Should Be Some Kind of Award for This…

Not every country could hit 100,000% inflation and still claim to be “functional"--although that term might be overstating things a tad.

Zimbabwe’s soaring inflation hit an annual rate of 100,000% in January, new official figures show.

Ongoing shortages of food and fuel helped drive inflation from December’s rate of 66,212%.

So, congratulations to Mugabe for breaking new ground; sympathy to the citizens for having to live under such a nincompoop.

Someday, when Mugabe is gone and someone is trying to pick up the pieces that are left, Mugabe’s defenders and apologists will be able to look on all this and laugh. Mostly because they were probably taking payoffs the entire way through and fat stacks of $10 million (Zim) notes still look impressive. “Ha ha ha, that Mugabe, he was always such an overachiever.”

I’m trying to put together the financing to do a trip to Mozambique next year--an actual journalistic endeavor of sorts--and was hoping to hop the border to get a look at Zimbabwe, too. I wonder how possible that will be this time next year?

Read the story.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

On Normalcy

Hope, from the Sokwanele Blog, explains a little about normalcy in Zimbabwe. As always, Sokwanele remains an excellent resource for gaining a realistic understanding of what life is like in Mugabe’s country--a frustrating, ugly view, no doubt, but far more honest than anything you’ll read from New African’s Baffour Ankomah, an apologist who not only glosses over the depredations of Mugabe’s government, but blames Western powers for Zimbabwe’s economic woes.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Dog Collar Protest


While Archbishop of York John Sentamu’s protest might be a tad dramatic, it brought attention to what he was saying on this clip from YouTube. And what he was saying was just good sense.

For Zimbabwe to even begin addressing its problems--dead economy, broken infrastructure, joblessness, a decimated farming industry, eroding freedoms, widespread hunger--Mugabe has to go. Leaving our disgust and anger silenced won’t make that happen and neither, apparently (and just as disgustingly), will leaving it to Mugabe’s neighbors. What will make it happen--or, at least, help prepare for what happens when he dies or is too old to carry on as the head of state--is to support grassroots organizations like Sokwanele--folks who work for democratic change and the protection of personal liberty in Zimbabwe. From their About Sokwanele page:

Sokwanele - Zvakwana is a peoples’ movement, embracing supporters of all pro-democratic political parties, civic organizations and institutions.

Sokwanele - Zvakwana will never aspire to political office.

Sokwanele - Zvakwana is a peoples’ force through which democracy will be restored to the country and protected jealously for future generations to ensure that Zimbabweans will never be oppressed again.

When you run into people who insist that everything is fine in Zim, that it isn’t as bad as the media portray, and that the only problems are caused by the financial sanctions from the West, visit Sokwanele and read their writing, see the pictures, and understand that these are Zimbabwe’s citizens. I applaud them for what they are doing.

Thanks very much to Matthew from Billy Ockham for pointing out the video.

Friday, December 07, 2007

I Didn’t Know it Was Possible to Insult the Zimbabwean Dollar…

With a single matchstick costing something on the order of Z$3,000, according to the BBC, is it any wonder that someone might choose to use Z$.10 notes as gimmick business cards? They certainly aren’t useful for anything else and to print real business cards would be far more expensive.

But anyone trying such a thing might do well to remember that Mugabe’s regime isn’t known for a sophisticated sense of humor.

Denis Paul is accused of insulting behaviour for handing out 10-cent Zimbabwean notes stamped with his business details at a tourism fair.

Officials say his actions in effect discouraged tourism to Zimbabwe.

Banks say the cost of printing the 10-cent notes by far exceed their face value. If found guilty, Mr Paul could face up to a year in prison.

Correspondent says the single-cent bank notes - or bearer cheques as they are known - released last year have become obsolete because of rampant inflation.

Does it possibly get better for Zimbabwe before it gets tremendously worse? There’s little on the shelves, scant hard currency (meaning: stable currency from outside of Zimbabwe) to import things like fuel, infrastructure failing, and not nearly enough food to eat. With inflation having, apparently, achieved escape velocity, the economy is certainly wrecked; it’s hard to imagine a recovery any time in the near future without the help of outside agencies. It’s impossible to imagine that help coming while Mugabe still rules.

In the words of the Boomer Bible, “Poor bastards.”

Read the rest.

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