Up on Global Voices

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As the poor get poorer, the rich are only going to get richer in Zimbabwe. In this post, Mugabe Makaipa describes how Zimbabwe’s stock market has grown 12,000% over last year as it has become chief among the few safe places that people can hedge against inflation. With inflation skyrocketing, unemployment reaching 80%, the local bourse has simultaneously become a boon to the capitalist intentions of the few that are willing to make the risky investment in Zimbabwean stock too. Sadly, the economically elite are the only beneficiaries of the reeling economy that is in Zimbabwe.

In Zimbabwe, they are very few and far between.

Therefore, all of the rich people, government officials, and banks are putting their money into stocks so that it doesn’t lose value. Demand is high, so the price is too.

The everyday people of Zimbabwe don’t see any benefit to this, though. Their masters may not see it for much longer either. Stock prices on the index are obviously inflated and unsustainable. It’s only a matter of time before it comes crashing down, taking down many in its spiral.

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Need I say more?…

Life in Zimbabwe

In Zimbabwe, a nation dominated by government owned media, keeping up with the political realities is an impossible and risky undertaking. Media in Zimbabwe is dominated by a state owned daily newspaper, and state owned radio and television. All reports carried by state media are unsurprisingly partial to the government. There’s a vacuum for balanced reportage on the country. Western media on the hand, seem too eager to demonize the Mugabe regime. They seem to always go back to their all too old mantra of showing our nation and our people as undercivilized meanwhile ignoring our unprecedent fortitude.

The best opportunity to escape the barrage of propaganda is available to those who live in the cities. Urban residents, because they can receive text messages on their cell phones with news the government represses, are somewhat better off than their rural counterparts . Further, if you have the money you can also go to an internet café in. The second best thing is attempting to tune into foreign radio broadcasts which are dodgy at best. Other than that, word of mouth is the next best way to keep a finger on what is really going in the country. Cell phones and email have been a boon in this regard.

In the last two weeks, life in Zimbabwe has taken a turn for the worse . In publicly attacking MDC activiscts, I am sure the government was displaying they can and will brutally crush any threats to their rule. Sadly, the result is a deeply divided nation living in mutual suspicion. There are two opposed groups; if you are pro-government, people suspect you are a member of the feared Central Intelligence Organization (CIO). And if you complain about the status quo like most Zimbabweans do, the dreaded CIO place you on surveillance under suspicion of stoking up violence and baying for the regime change. Once labelled thus, one quickly becomes known a western stooge. Families have been torn apart by these suspicions.

Each morning we wake up and are faced with the myth of uncertainty. The average Zimbabwean’s life is full of uncertainty. We don’t know if we’re going to have to work because businesses are closing. If your job is not jeopardy, circumstances militate against that reality too. Nowadays, if we wake up too early and go looking for public transportation to get to work, you can be arrested under suspicion of convening an unsanctioned meeting. If you escape that unwarranted suspicion, constant fuel shortages ensure that the transportation does not run on a predictable schedule.

With runaway inflation life in Zimbabwe is unaffordable. We work hard, we are frugal, but never seem to have enough to afford the basic necessities. Our salaries are the only things that are not increasing.

Most disturbing though is the inescapable tension enveloping the entire nation. There is talk of a crack military squad from Angola coming. Bloodshed is almost a certainty before things improve. There rumors of war but there is nothing we can do to stop it. We used to pride ourselves about being one of the few nations in Africa that have successfully avoided civil unrest, not anymore.

The violence, brutality and general harship in life would quickly fuel the flame if the country ignites. I certainly hope it doesn’t come to that.

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Pajamas Media interview

It seems last week was the week of interviews for yours truly. I appreciate the feedback left by those who stopped by even those who remain critics of our efforts to chronicle the Zimbabwean story. Undaunted by circumstance or criticism, we’ll continue to tell you the Zimbabwean story from an unheard perspective. This is an excerpt from my interview Richard Fernandez of Pajamas Media.

PJM: What happens next in Zimbabwe?

Zimpundit: This crisis continues while the world watches. With no oil, or “national security” interest for western powerhouses like the US, Zimbabweans are on their own as they continue to bear the brunt of the leadership’s poor choices.

South Africa, our biggest trade partner won’t intervene either because Mbeki considers Mugabe one of his own or because he’s enviously hatching plans to carry out his own atrocities, or both.

Zimbabweans must find it in themselves to negotiate a way out of the present situation. It will take more lives, it will take more suffering, it will take more pain, but we have no other choice.

The MDC leadership will be released with no charges because the state has no case against them. I suspect, having been brutalized once, both Mutambara and Tsvangirai will be out again urging people stand up against the cruel regime. And they’ll both have stronger credibility.

Because of their visible wounds and the fact that they have sacrificed their own bodies and led by example, more people will listen to them. Their wounds and tales of brutality have the potential to spell an end to ZANU-PF’s tyranny. If the government thinks they are going to get the MDC to back down, they have a surprise coming.

PJM: Are there any red lines left?

Zimpundit: The only thing remaining to happen is a public ground swell of people refusing to stand the oppression any longer. Zimbabweans have been pushed long enough, they’ve suffered long enough, all that remains is that their anguish be channeled toward one central place.

Sooner rather than later, there will be an out pouring of rage against the oppression. The economy has yet to grind to a complete stop. Keep in mind that it was the Tsvangirai led crowds that stoppped the nation in its tracks back in 1998 protesting against the cost of living. History has a funny way of repeating itself.

Richard also found some very interesting videos to go along with the article he wrote. Be sure to check both videos for some historical perspective.

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“Rounds”: celebrating a creative conception of Zimbabwean’s survival impetus.

If there is one constant in the everchanging sea of Zimbabwe’s turbulent circumstances it is this: the economic wellbeing of ordinary people has been under seige over the last eight years. With a national economy reeling from record inflation, untamed unemployment, an aneamic currency, and shrinking productivity, people’s ability to excercise economic self determination has all but disappeared. Prices of basic neccesities have rocketed out of range leaving most of Zimbabwe’s working people living under the poverty datum line (PDL).

All that is old news.

It never ceases to amaze me to note that every time I look, people all around are constantly innovating new ways to eke out the increasingly elusive survival. Many Zimbabweans refuse to give up even though they confront the most dire of circumstances with each sunrise. As long as there is school fees, rent, utilities, transport, and many other bills to be paid, people persistantly rise to the challenge, failing only after exerting the most valiant of efforts. Tofira mutrial, a popular colloquialism which when literally translated means “we’ll die trying” has become the defacto modus operandi on the highways and by ways of our once teeming nation. And, as we Zimbabweans are apt to do when vexed by circumstances that defy the best of our attempts, we’ve coined a slang term to satirizes this new hustle; kukorokoza (the loose equivalent of gold panning).

But perhaps even more impressive that our uncanny ability to poke fun at our existential dilema, is the depth to which people are digging in as they refuse to allow these pressing circumstances to compromise their existence. Of all the resourceful ways people have invented to remain viable, none captures the communal resilience of my people better than the month-end phenomenon of circulating pots of money better known to Zimbos as “rounds.”

Each month end, at a predetermined date, small groups of friends (typically between five to 12 people) pool their monetary resources and give the collective pot of money to one member of the group. So for that one month, that member’s family has up to 12 times their usual disposable income. Consider this as an example; a group of eight nurses who work together decide to throw $150 into the pot each month. Every eighth month, each of these nurses takes home an extra $1,050. This scheme, is in essence, a revolving fund of sorts or, an interest-free loan to members of the club.

Assuming that this amount is proportional to the price of things, each time a member takes the pot, their family is afforded a financial opportunity they typically would not have been able to experience. In real terms, this means that the family that collects the “round” can make a significant household purchase, save for school fees, or invest the money in an interest bearing tool.

Most of the TV’s in many of Zimbabwe’s households were bought with money from the rounds. As a kid, I have fond memories of that eighth month when my mom collected and was able to splurge. My favorite “round” purchase was a fine china tea set that my mom bought only to reserve its’ use for occasions when she had special company. Of course, of all the visitors we received at our house, and they were many, I can recall only a handful that were important enough to use the tea set.

Nowadays, rounds are being collected monthly to pay essential bills instead of financing out of the norm purchases. The rounds are now a means of survival. Rounds are just one of the many tricks that Zimbos are compelled to rely on in the face of unrelenting difficulty.

I pay homage to rounds not only because of their ability to enable Zimbabweans to prosper materially at a low cost, but because for me, they embody a unique type of capitalism that will one day catapult us to the front of the world’s economic stage. In a rare marriage of self interest and benovelance, rounds, in their own unique way, represent the ultruistic benefit that can be derived from sheer capitalistic enterprise. In my opinion, this is strictly because of how central the notion of community is to rounds.

A reliable and trustworthy relationship is a prerequisite between any potential members of these clubs. The people have to both trust that they will all pay their monthly dues, and have confidence that each member will earn enough income to pay the dues. Who better to trust for long term reliability than one’s own neighbors and workmates?
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ICG Report on Zimbabwe creates buzz

International Crisis Group (ICG), a global political think tank released a report on Zimbabwe that has generated a lot of attention in cyberspace over the past 48 hours. Here’s the important stuff, the recommendations ICG makes in the report,

To the Government of Zimbabwe and ZANU-PF:

1. Abandon plans to extend President Mugabe’s term beyond its expiration in March 2008 and support SADC-led negotiations to implement an exit strategy for him no later than that date.

2. Negotiate with the MDC on a constitutional framework, power-sharing agreement, detailed agenda and benchmarks for a two-year political transition, beginning in March 2008, including:

(a) adoption of a constitutional amendment in the July 2007 parliamentary session providing for nomination in March 2008, by two-thirds majority, of a non-executive president, an executive prime minister and de-linking of government and ZANU-PF party positions;

(b) a power-sharing agreement leading in early 2008 to a transitional government, including ZANU-PF and the MDC, tasked with producing a new draft constitution, repealing repressive laws, drawing up a new voters roll and demilitarising and depoliticising state institutions in accordance with agreed timelines and benchmarks, and leading to internationally supervised elections in 2010; and

(c) implementation of an emergency economic recovery plan to curb inflation, restore donor and foreign investor confidence and boost mining and agricultural production, including establishment of a Land Commission with a strong technocratic base and wide representation of Zimbabwean stakeholders to recommend policies aimed at ending the land crisis.

3. Abandon plans for a new urban displacement program and act to redress the damage done by Operation Murambatsvina by:

(a) providing shelter to its homeless victims; and

(b) implementing the recommendations of the Tibaijuka Report, including compensation for those whose property was destroyed, unhindered access for humanitarian workers and aid and creation of an environment for effective reconstruction and resettlement.

To the Movement for Democratic Change:

4. Proceed with internal efforts to establish minimum unity within the party and a common front for dealing with the government and ZANU-PF and contesting presidential and parliamentary elections, while retaining reunification as the ultimate goal.

5. Hold internal consultations between faction leaders to adopt a joint strategy aiming at:

(a) finalising negotiations with ZANU-PF over constitutional reforms, a power-sharing agreement and formation of a transitional government in March 2008; and

(b) preparing for a March 2008 presidential election if negotiations with ZANU-PF fail, and President Mugabe retains power.

To Zimbabwean and South African Civil Society Organisations:

6. Initiate legal proceedings in South African courts to attach any assets stolen from the Zimbabwean government and transferred to or invested in South Africa and to obtain the arrest and prosecution of egregious Zimbabwean human rights abusers visiting South Africa.

To SADC and South Africa:

7. Engage with the U.S. and the EU to adopt a joint strategy for resolving the crisis that includes:

(a) mediation by SADC of negotiations for an exit deal on expiration of President Mugabe’s term in 2008 and of an agreement between ZANU-PF and the MDC on a power-sharing transitional government to oversee development of a new constitution, repeal repressive laws and hold internationally supervised presidential and parliamentary elections in 2010; and

(b) understandings on the use by the U.S. and EU of incentives and disincentives to support the strategy in regard to targeted sanctions, political relations with the transitional government and resumption of assistance.

8. Engage with the Zimbabwe government to facilitate talks between ZANU-PF and the MDC leading to the above steps.

9. Convene an urgent meeting of the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Co-operation to consider the regional consequences of the economic meltdown in Zimbabwe and recommend action by the Heads of State summit to deal with the situation.

To the United States and the European Union:

10. Engage with SADC countries to adopt the above-mentioned joint strategy, including understandings on timelines and benchmarks to be met by the Zimbabwean authorities in restoring and implementing a democratic process.

11. Increase pressure on President Mugabe and other ZANU-PF leaders if they do not cooperate with efforts to begin a transition and restore democracy, including by taking the following measures to close loopholes in targeted personal sanctions:

(a) apply the sanctions also to family members and business associates of those on the lists;

(b) cancel visas and residence permits of those on the lists and their family members; and

(c) add Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono to the EU list.

12. Portugal, holding the EU Presidency in the second half of 2007, should not invite President Mugabe and other members of the Zimbabwe government or ZANU-PF on the EU targeted sanctions list to the EU-AU summit unless significant reforms have already been undertaken.

13. Increase funding for training and other capacity-building assistance to democratic forces in Zimbabwe.

To the United Nations Secretary-General:

14. Assign a senior official – a new Special Envoy to Zimbabwe, the Special Adviser to the Secretary General on Africa or a high-level member of the Department of Political Affairs – responsibility for the Zimbabwe portfolio including to support the SADC-led initiative, and monitor the situation for the Secretary General.

To the United Nations Security Council:

15. Begin discussions aimed at placing the situation in Zimbabwe on the agenda as a threat to international peace and security.

To the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights or in the alternative the Human Rights Council:

16. Initiate a follow-up investigation on the Tibaijuka Report, including plans for a new urban displacement campaign, arrests of informal miners and political repression, and recommend actions to the member states, the Security Council and the Secretariat.

To the Commonwealth Secretariat:

17. Encourage Commonwealth member countries in Southern Africa to help mediate a political settlement for a post-Mugabe Zimbabwe, setting benchmarks for a return of the country to the organisation.

18. Establish a group of Eminent Persons to engage with Zimbabwe, using the good offices of its regional members to facilitate access.

19. Work through Commonwealth civil society organizations to build up civil society capacity in Zimbabwe.

I can’t say the report, recommendations, or all the attention it is getting have me jumping out of my seat. Don’t get me wrong, I am not going to dismiss the report either, there’s clearly been a diligent effort by the group to document the status quo in Zimbabwe today.
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ITV stealth report: fedup in Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe; cracks, fissures and discontent all around.

Zimbabwean President, Robert Mugabe turned 83 a week ago. While he celebrated at a lengthy gala in Gweru which was forced on residents and school children there, police issued a repressive ban on rallies and demonstrations in Harare. The ban, the regime’s latest measure at calming an incessent tide of anger, is evidence that there are deep cracks and fissures in the nation’s foundations as Eddie Cross notes;

The situation in Zimbabwe has deteriorated sharply in the past few days. The government has imposed a ban on public meetings, the strikes are continuing with the State run hospitals now completely paralysed, Doctors and Nurses refuse to go back to work. The Universities are due to open on Monday but staff is on strike and there are no signs of compromise. Students plan to join the strike on Monday in support of their lecturers and demanding attention to the stark conditions under which they are living. The ZCTU has announced a national strike in a month’s time and the State Security Minister has threatened them with dire action.

Now a form of curfew is being imposed on the high-density townships across the country in an effort to bring the situation under control. These are clearly signs of panic in the realms of government.

Tomorrow should be the start of a 4-month freeze on prices and wages – however I understand the proposal has been abandoned as being simply unworkable. No statements are forthcoming from the authorities and to say the least, there is considerable confusion in business and Union circles. The Governor of the Reserve Bank speaks of a ‘Social Contract’ but none exists.

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Gono delivers…another damp squib.

Against the damning background of a controversial mercedes benz, a hardly complentary expose on his meteoric rise, clashes with the finance minister Herbert Murerwa, and the rapid unraveling of his policies, Gono was constitutionaly mandated to deliver yet another monetary policy statement yesterday. Deliver he did, but certainly not a policy statement.

The only change, a cut in money supply which doesn’t count becuase in an already highly speculative economy, speculation will increase by a factor equal to the decrease in money supply. Translation; our record breaking inflation will skyrocket this year if Gono sticks to his promises. Add to that, Gono’s tepid appeals to the government to sell off none performing parastatals and his call for action from other stakeholder, and what you get is nothing.

Here’s what Gono did, or didin’t do in his policy. Lending rates; stagnant at 500%. Exchange rate; shunted at long outdated paltry rates, and nothing else. Correct me if I’m wrong, but last time checked the sum of nothing is, well, nothing. If anything, this last statement was notable because it was Gono’s thinly disguised concession to Zimbabwe free (sometimes called black) market.
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Eddie Cross: How long?

How long, oh Lord?

Perhaps this has been the most common question that I have been asked in recent weeks. People look at me anxiously and hope for an indication that things are not as bad as they seem and that there is some hope that this long nightmare might end.

That is a tough question – perhaps because there is no answer. The truth of the matter is that we might wake up tomorrow morning and find that everything has changed. The reality is however, that change is not likely to come very soon and it is how we manage that bit of information that matters.

Let’s just review the overall situation that confronts us right now.

It is now certain that 2007 is going to be much worse than 2006. Inflation is going to be higher, the economy will almost certainly shrink – for the 9th year in a row and the flood of economic refugees into other countries will, if anything get worse. Shortages will be more widespread and this will
create additional problems for those of us who live here. I predict that the coming agricultural season will be much worse than in the past year. Output across the board will be lower – without exception.

Then there is the situation in Zanu PF. Mr. Mugabe is no longer functioning effectively as Head of State – he is working very short hours and for whatever reason is already in a state of semi retirement. He has moved to his new home in Harare and goes into the office late in the morning
returning home before midday. Few people are seeing him and it is clear that government is confused and divided – no strong central direction is apparent. Everybody is doing his or her own thing.

Then there is the succession debate. Rumors abound about Mugabe’s future plans – they all point to him stepping down and it would appear from our sources that the debate on whether to allow him to remain President until 2010 has been quashed. It would appear to us that he is now committed to
retirement in March 2008, if not sooner. A recurrent Zanu PF nightmare is that he might become incapacitated sooner than March 2008, leaving Zanu unprepared for the succession battles that will follow.
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