Cross posted on Global Voices

Following recent reports chronicling the decline in Zimbabwe’s HIV/AIDS prevalence, the spotlight has now been turned on to the effect anti-AIDS campaigns have wrought on traditional Zimbabwean morals and values:

Zimbabwe’s lead in condom use and condom sale worldwide has produced mixed reactions, with some sections of society welcoming the development, while others see it as a sign of “moral decay”.

Zimbabwe is the leading country in Africa in male condom use and sales — selling over 163 million male condoms and 3,8 million female condoms over the past five years. The 163 million male condoms sold represent the highest figure in Africa, while the 3,8 million female condoms figure sold represents the highest number of female condoms sold in the world.

A total of 900 000 female condoms were sold in 2005 alone, representing the highest per capita in any programme in the world so far.

But in an entry decrying the absence of service by the Harare City Council, Taurai at Kubatana illustrates how deeply mired the the pro-condom message can sometimes be,

There are some garbage bins in Harare that display colorful adverts for Protector Plus condoms. Part of the advert reads, “What the smart guys are wearing”: a great message but what a pity that most of the bins are overflowing with garbage that hasn’t been collected for days.

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Eddie Cross: Price Control Arrests

The Arbitrary Arrest of Businesspersons.

During the past week many hundreds of businessmen and women have been arrested and detained for short periods by the Police and other StateAgents. In addition literally thousands of businesses have been raided –some on a daily basis, in an effort to intimidate and force wholesalers and retailers to reduce prices and margins.

One business that I know personally has had individuals from State agencies literally camped on the premises for more than 10 days. They issue tickets and when managers have gone to the local Police Station to pay “Admission of guilt” fines they have been confronted with a wide range of arbitrary
charges.

Three such charges that I have seen read: –

Docket number 3627023 “Wrongfully and unlawfully offering for sale”

Docket number 3625426 “Failure to furnish information”

Docket number 3625427 “ Failure to display prices”

In each case a fine was paid of Z$10 000.00 – much cheaper to pay the fine than go to Court with all that that involves. The authorities are trying to enforce a maximum retail mark up on a wide range of goods of 10 per cent. What they are demanding at wholesale level is anyone’s guess – perhaps 5 per cent?

By my calculation a wholesaler must operate a net (after taxes) margin on at least 15 to 20 per cent and turn their stock every month to make enough money to pay taxes, finance new stock (at significantly higher prices) and pay overheads and direct costs. A retailer requires double that level of margin, as their sales are smaller and costs higher.

If you do not make these sorts of margin then you might cover costs but will not generate the additional funds to buy new stocks. If I take sugar as an example, I bought 7 tonnes of sugar in November 2005 for Z$94 000.00. Today sugar costs Z$351.00 per kilo – my 7 tonnes would cost Z$2 457 000.00 – that is 26 times what it cost just 12 months ago. If I bought 7 tonnes every two
weeks my mark-up at 10 per cent would only finance a small part of this huge increase in the unit costs. The rest would have to be financed from borrowings or from margins on other products.

You can see this happening to retailers and wholesalers – they stay open but their stocks shrink. If I borrowed the funds to pay for the higher costs, interest at today’s rates would cost me Z$25 000 a day on 7 tones of sugar –in 14 days that is Z$350 000 or much more than 10 per cent of the cost of
the product.

One or two reports say that the officials carrying out these raids have shown copies of the Notice that established their right to act in this way. The one report said the new authority would expire at the month end. Directors of business are obliged by law to trade in such a way as to protect the business. They may not trade under conditions that would knowingly lead to the firm’s insolvency and threaten creditors interests.

Most managers are now out on bail. It will be fascinating to see what happens when they get in front of a magistrate.

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Cross Posted on Global Voices

Global Voices has posted a harrowing video documenting the brutal beatings suffered by worker’s union demonstrators recently. Read the post and watch the video here.

Debate surrounding a new law, the Domestic Violence Bill, became the context for a much criticized misogynistic outburst in Zimbabwe’s parliament last week. Timothy Mubhawu, a controversial member of Zimbabwe’s parliament attracted the ire of women worldwide when he, purpoting “to represent God”, expressed his views on the proposed bill,

“I stand here representing God Almighty. Women are not equal to men. It is a dangerous Bill and let it be known in Zimbabwe that the right, privilege and status of men is gone. I stand here alone and say this bill should not be passed in this House. It is a diabolic Bill. Our powers are being usurped in daylight in this House.”

This outburst, wouldn’t nearly be as appalling had it been uttered by any other legislator save for Mubhawo. Zimbabwean women were on the streets the day after Mubhawo’s infamous statement. Mubhawo is the chief suspect in the brutal assault of Trudy Stevenson, a white female parliamentarian.
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Eddie Cross: The responsibility to protect

For almost all of the 20th Century, a basic dictum of international diplomacy was “non interference in the internal affairs of other States”. Even today, Mugabe angrily denounces all attempts to even discuss the crisis in Zimbabwe at international gatherings as “interference in our internal affairs.” At the SADC summit last month he stormed out of that gathering and flew home 24 hours early when leaders insisted that the Zimbabwe situation be discussed in a closed session.

Today in Darfur the international community faces a fresh challenge – the Sudanese government is flatly refusing to allow more effective UN surveillance of the situation in Darfur and is continuing to try to subjugate the people of Darfur by means of armed force using both State resources and informal armed forces. The international media is still allowed into the Sudan and so we can see for ourselves the effects of this situation on the ordinary men and women of the western region of Sudan. We can see the refugee camps, the fresh graves; hear the stories of those whose lives and rights are being abused by a dictatorial Islamic regime.

In recent times the issue of non-interference in the internal affairs of sovereign States has come under scrutiny. People are questioning the dictate and saying that where a government is threatening the fundamental human and
political rights of its people, the international community has the responsibility to act in solidarity with the poor and defenseless. So today we are seeing really tough talk at the UN about Darfur and we are also seeing more and more prominent people from all walks of life saying that the international community has the responsibility to interfere.

In southern Africa we have been there as well – both the Rhodesian and South African governments used the dictate to argue that outsiders had no right to interfere. But eventually, the gravity of the crisis and the threat to the
stability of the region persuaded those with power to take action. In both cases the international community appointed a “point man” to take responsibility for coordinating and directing the resolution of the crisis. In both cases they were successful. Henry Kissenger was the point man on Rhodesia and Margaret Thatcher the point “man” for South Africa.

What happened after their intervention was critical, but it was their (often unsung) actions that actually broke the logjam and made all else possible. If you had told me that South Africa would go through the process that led
to the 1994 elections without serious violence and upheaval – I would have said you were nuts. But it happened and the key element was a carefully planned and executed political action backed by the threat of the use of
power. Such threats are only credible when they are real and can be backed up by action if needed.

Today it is 30 years since Henry Kissenger flew into South Africa and held talks with a team of Ministers led by Ian Smith at Union Buildings in Pretoria. He came with a plan agreed by key African leaders and the backing
of the global community at the time. He arrived when Rhodesia was in the throes of an armed struggle with the armies of Zanla and Zipra who were demanding one-man one vote (democracy). 150 000 men were under arms and the
ordinary population of the country was being brutalized by all sides. The economy was in dire straights and there was no end in sight for the conflict. There were fears the conflict might spread into South Africa itself. Smith was totally in charge and even the South Africans were wary of taking him on politically.

Kissenger persuaded the South Africans that there was no future for Rhodesia under Smith. That backing the Smith government was not only a waste of South African resources but was having a negative impact on the survival and prosperity of South Africa itself. He was well prepared and the US had used its considerable intelligence capacity to ensure that he could argue this case with some force and conviction.

Kissenger sympathized with Smith – recognised his courage and determination and even his love of the country he led. But he also understood that he was never going to win and that if the final defeat came any way other than
through negotiation, it would be a disaster. He presented his plan to the Rhodesian team and after they had debated it amongst themselves for a while, they rejected it. At that point the President of South Africa came in and
said to the Rhodesian delegation that if they walked out of that room without an agreement, he would cut off their essential supplies and all future support would cease. Smith went on to call it the “Great Betrayal” but in fact what those two foreign leaders did that day was to rescue the country from itself and open the way to a new beginning.

The Rhodesians flew home and Smith went on television 30 years ago on the 23rd September 1976 to say they had agreed to a transition to real democracy. It took 3 more years but when Zimbabwe was born on the 18th April
1980, Henry Kissenger was, in a very real sense, its father.

Today the international media are banned from Zimbabwe and unless someone has the courage and the equipment to film something clandestinely – the world cannot see what is happening here. That does not excuse leaders. They
should not require pictures to make decisions on situations like Darfur and Zimbabwe. Unfortunately very often that is the case – but it should not be so. They know what is happening – they have other resources, reports,
intelligence and their diplomats.

The crisis in Darfur is serious, but it does not compare to the situation in Zimbabwe where a criminal class is in power, is terrified of its past and is fighting to stay in control at any cost. The consequences are there for all
to see – GDP down by half, exports by two thirds, life expectancy by half in a decade, elections a sham, the media totally controlled and all forms of opposition ruthlessly put down by armed force and violence. We are a threat
to regional stability and prosperity; our economic and political refugees are drowning the social and economic systems of our neighbors. Our leadership is unrepentant – even of genocide and the mass destruction of homes and livelihoods. They are guilty of the theft of national assets and income on a scale that has not been seen in recent years in the rest of the world.

Like Burma and North Korea they have built up a military State that is able and willing to maintain itself on what remains and can continue to do so indefinitely. The only recourse of its beleaguered and embattled population is flight or a form of national “house arrest”.

The Zimbabwe situation is one that is wide open to international intervention. The failure by African leaders, the South African leadership in particular, demands that the international community itself takes a fresh look at what is going on and what can be done to get things back on track. Unlike Darfur, Iraq, Burma and North Korea – Zimbabwe is vulnerable to international action. It is a small country with limited resources – none of them really strategic, it is land locked and its neighbors hold the key to the survival of the regime.

This is a problem that can be fixed. For the sake of its people, the international community has an obligation to interfere. It does not require military intervention of any sort, just coordinated and concerted action by the leaders of democracies in Africa and abroad.

Eddie Cross
Bulawayo, 2nd October 2006

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Zimbabwe from a differenct perspective

Ethan Zuckerman, one of my bosses at the award winning Global Voices project has just returned from a trip to South Africa and Zimbabwe. As can be expected of Ethan, he invested a lot time in chronicling his experiences inside Zimbabwe’s boarders. Go over and read his posts on his time in Zimbabwe here, here, here, here, here, and here.

Like PRI’s Sheri Fink, Ethan is surprised to find that we continue to survive in Zimbabwe despite massive odds stacked against us. Life in Zimbabwe seems more tranquil than circumstances warrant. Ethan explains that the apparent reticence to rebel is due to the stretchability and adaptability of my country men and women, a phenomenon he labels “makeaplan.”

But Zimbabweans may also be avoiding the demonstrations because it’s just so hard to keep their families sheltered and fed. Operation Murambatsvina may have displaced as many as 2.4 million families from their homes; bread shortages are forcing the government to release hard currency to import wheat; petrol shortages make transport so expensive that some people can’t commute to work any more. These privations might inspire revolution in some countries. In Zimbabwe, it inspires people to “make a plan”.

The phrase is said as a single word – “makeaplan” – and reflects the incredible resilience of the Zimbabwean people. Power cuts mean the kids cannot study their books? Send the kids over to one house and light lamps, conserving expensive lamp oil. Can’t afford transport to your village? Trucks leaving Harare stop and load passengers on top of their loads, taking money to help with petrol costs. People who can’t afford prescription medicines – in short supply because of the currency crisis – make friends with people who travel to South Africa, who can smuggle medicines over the border.

Walking into town one morning, trying to find a taxi, I find myself in step with two young men walking to work. They tell me the taxis don’t come by here any more – it uses too much petrol to cruise for passengers – and encourage me to walk for another half an hour, into downtown, where I might find a cab. “It’s good exercise,” they tell me. “Look how strong we’ve become,” they say, laughing.

It’s amazing what you can accomplish by making a plan. My friend Kennedy Mavhumashava talks about a story she recently wrote for a Panos website. Despite AIDS donors deciding to cut programs in Zimbabwe, HIV prevalence in Zimbabwe is falling, both in the adult population and in mother to child transmission. What’s astonishing about this is that Zimbabwe spends much, much less on HIV care than other countries. Well-funded nations like Botswana spend $74 per patient per year – Zimbabwe spends $4.

Every once in a while, a few people in my reading audience, will, having been captivated by the grotesque realities of life in Zimbabwe, ask me why we can tolerate so much anguish. There it is then. Explained and illustrated better than I’ve been able to articulate it all the times I have tried.

Don’t mistake the Zimbabweans’ “makeaplan” abilities for an improvement in the dire circumstances in Zimbabwe; life in Zimbabwe is horrible. There’s no denying it. It’s just that the numerous dialectics in play in the Zimbabwean crisis make it difficult to adopt a mon0logical stance on my country. Post’s like this one have elicited passionate responses from some in my readership who equate my documentation of what what the people on the ground are thinking to tacit support for the regime. I’m just calling them like I see them.

Zimbabweans are among some of the most resilient people in the world, sometimes to our own detriment. As much as our victimization by Mugabe pilories his reputation, our own resourcefulness is the crutch by which his regime is propped up. Now I’m beginning to wonder should we be less resourceful then to catalyse the regimes demise? Should the majority in Zimbabwe be incapable of defending themselves against the harsh realities that have become modus operandi in the country? How much worse do things need to get before we reach point break?

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Eddie Cross: Seven years of courage and determination

Seven years ago I sat in the aquatic stadium in Chitungwiza and watched as 8000 ordinary Zimbabweans – mostly low-income workers and rural peasant farmers, formed a new political Party, which they called the “Movement for Democratic Change”. It was the start of a new era in Zimbabwean politics.

I seem to have been in opposition politics all my life. It started in the 60’s when I was a student at the University in Harare and underwent a metamorphosis in political terms – discovering the conditions under which people were living and working and for the first time appreciating the
unjustness of the situation. I vowed to work towards resolving the problem and spent the next 12 years in opposition politics – working against the Smith government.

At independence in 1980 I was part of the transition team – working to help the incoming administration (Zanu or Zapu) to come to grips with what had been a closed book to the rest of the world for 13 years following the imposition of mandatory UN sanctions in 1967. I then worked on the first donor conference and did the background papers that laid the groundwork for a very successful transition in agriculture. Over the next 15 years the farm sector was Zimbabwe’s most consistent performer.

Although I sympathized with the forces that came to power in 1980, I always had an uneasy relationship with them even though I occupied quite senior positions in the first 8 years of Mr. Mugabe’s rule. This was accentuated in 1983 when I was brought face to face with the early effects of the Gukurahundi exercise and raised my disquiet with the then Secretary to the Cabinet, Charles Utete. I went on to raise my concerns with certain European governments and got my first serious reprimand and threat from the Minister of State Security, Emerson Munangagwa.

It was the beginning of the end for me – the last time I had been threatened by a Minister of Security, it was by a Minister in the Smith government who called me a “threat to national security”. Somewhat exaggerated in my view at the time and also in retrospect, but as we have come to learn, political paranoia has no bounds.
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All is not well on the Zimbabwean Front

The mud cake thick charade that is Zimbabwe sunk to it’s lowest yesterday when Botswana’s president Festus Mogae officially opened the Harare Agricultural Show. That Mogae played along is no surprise, it is the audacity by Mugabe and his cronies in government to hold up a non existant relationship with a country that has made no secret of their contempt of Zimbabweans that is galling.

Years after independece in Zimbabweans and the batswana cultivated a famously cordial relationship. After all, most if not all residents of Matebeleland South province in Zimbabwe have lineages span across Zimbabwe and Botswana’s boarders. Many a Tswana were educated at Zimbabwe’s colleges university and returned to their home country for a job. Reciprocally, many a trained Zimbabwe established themselves in Botswana’s smaller, but much more stable economy during the first fifteen years of our independence.

So it only seemed natural when things turned sour in Zimbabwe, that a mass exodus for Botswana beginning first in the south of Zimbabwe became one of the most plied routes to “greener pastures” for desperate Zimbabweans. For a while, our neighbors in Botswana tolerated the surging influx of Zimbo’s. It wasn’t anything new, our countries had mutually exchanged people, skills and resources for much of the last 20 years. I can even remember a family vacation in Gaborone, Botswana’s capitol back in the day. And, if I am not mistaken, I remember my mother buying me my first “safari suit” outfit on that trip. Mugabe made safari suits popular to seven year old Zimbabwean boys in the mid-eighties.

After years of sustained heightened influx from their northern neighbors, the Batswana’s longsuffering patience began to run. They had watched better qualified Zimbabweans come and take their jobs and enjoy a better quality of life in their own country and had had enough. Right around 2000, word of Batswana’s targeted hostility began to leak out. Pretty soon after that it became news. Zimbabwean’s were being murdered by angry Tswana’s; Botswana was reipartriating Zimbabweans by the truckload everyday; Botswana was couping despertate Zimbabweans in inhumane animal pens for miniscule offences and the litany continues. There’s one headline that definitively marked a new era in the relations between our countries and our people; Botswana erected an electric fence to slow down the tidal wave of Zimbabweans.

Despite their best diplomatic efforts to project the new fence is nothing more than a measure to stem the spread of foot and mouth disease between cattle heards close to the boarders, Botswana’s government received several protests from their colleagues in Harare. All the while Zimbabwean border jumpers had figured out how isolate the portions of the fence long enough so that they could sneak back into what had become a promised land; Botswana. This controversy is well articulated in the PBS Wide Angle documentary Border Jumpers
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Eddie Cross: Let my people go

The story of Moses in the Old Testament chronicles the time when the people of Israel liberated themselves from slavery in Egypt. In the story, Moses goes to Pharaoh and demands that he allow the Jews to leave Egypt and travel to a land that has been promised to them by God. Seven times this demand was made and in an unusual aside, the Bible says that God “hardened Pharaoh’s heart” and he denied them their freedom.

There was more to that of course – there were nearly 3 million Jews in Egypt and they formed the backbone of the indentured labour and much of the administrative skills needed to run the country. It was only after every Egyptian family had lost a child that the Egyptians drove the Jews out and they were able to flee into the desert and eventually enter to Promised Land.

I do not want in any way to draw a parallel to this story and the struggle for freedom that we are engaged in here, but there are similarities. We have prayed, our people have suffered and we have had no outside help and indeed cannot expect any help. We are virtual slaves to Zanu PF who run a kleptocratic State that keeps the rest of us working hard and poor.
say that each time we have challenged Pharaoh he has simply hardened his heart and increased our burdens. Will this final challenge be the one that breaks the back of Pharaoh’s will and sparks a willingness to let our people go? Perhaps it is that point in our story.

Certainly if God was working behind the scenes you can see the results. On Monday we see the old bearer cheques lose their value and there is consensus that this will lead to chaos. People in the remote rural areas have not even heard the news, the Banks are simply swamped, there are not enough of the new notes available to exchange with the old. Trillions of dollars will be wiped out and fortunes lost on Monday – and it will not be the rich and powerful or the crooks who suffer, they have their positions well covered, it is going to be the millions of the poor and disadvantaged who will be the main victims.

Right now, just to compound the problems of the people, there is no maize meal available. I think Zanu PF actually believed their own fiction that we had grown 1,7 to 1,8 million tonnes of maize. We have stated as often as we can that this is pure fiction and make believe. If, as I estimated some months ago, we have only gown about the same as last year (750 000 tonnes) then this will have already been exhausted as people will have held onto stocks for their own use and what little surplus would have been traded or eaten by now. The price of this basic staple has doubled overnight – if you can get some. We brought a truckload of maize meal into town yesterday and it was sold out in 30 minutes.

I bought some Rand for a trip to South Africa last week – at 65 000 to 1. When I came home 6 days later, the price was 90 000 to 1. Fuel is in very short supply and prices rise daily. The army officer who runs our Energy Ministry declared this week that fuel prices would be fixed at half or less their present value and that they “had plenty of fuel to meet our needs”. The immediate reaction of the trade was to simply stop trading. The Minister of Industry weighed in and declared a 3-week price freeze – in an environment where our prices are doubling every two months. He was ignored.

We must pay our staff on Friday next week – 850 000 workers expect to be paid their pittances, 10 days later we must pay school fees for three million kids. Nearly all of these transactions will be in cash. We simply do not have the smaller denominations needed for these payments. There is no sign of them being available. I will try to draw change on Monday, but I have little expectation that it will be available. Yesterday we were still trading at about 90 per cent in the old notes.
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Chaos as zero deadline arrives

Today is the day Gono set to be the final day ofuse of the “old” bearer cheques, which have been sporadically introduced over the last two years. Not surprisingly, the poorly planned currency change over has been so hectic and stressful that it is going to be impossible to complete the transition as neatly as Gono might have wanted.

The nauseating disregard for ample planning as evinced by untold inconvenience experienced by Zimbabweans across the board is infuriating. It smacks of the narcissistic arrogance that has been the mantra of the Mugabe regime especially over the last few years.

For illustrative and realistic purposes, travel with me if you will, to Bveke communal area in the northeastern district of Mount Darwin. Here we find subsistence farmers and other rural people who will ultimately be denied just opportunity to exchange their “old” currency for the new. Why? Because Gono et al simply didn’t think enough of these people to warrant a more intense planning so to cover the following scenario.

In Zimbabwe’s highly centralized government, Gono’s announcement that he was changing the currency probaly still hasn’t been heard by everyone in the Bveke area even though it has been three weeks now. Such policy announcements are usually carried through the media, which in Zimbabwe leaves only two options; the Herald and Zimbabwe Broadcasting Holdings.

If you live in Bveke, you probably have scant access to both of these. Both radio and television coverage are essentially non-existent in this remote area of Zimbabwe for two reasons. First and most importantly, with Zimbabwe’s tattered and rapidly regressing economy, hardly anyone in the rural outskirts can afford to mantain a radio much less a television set. It is just too expensive and simply not a high enough priority. Second and probably much more frustrating, if you own a television set and/or a radio in Bveke, those two are most likely the most underused pieces of equipment in your household. Bveke is just too far out to receive signal from Zimbabwe’s sole broadcaster, Zimbabwe Broadcasting Holdings. So even if you turned it on, the T.V. or radio will probaly pickup nothing.

People just didn’t know the change was going to happen as fast as it has. Gono knew this and did little to alleviate the mass confusion that resulted. I’ll explain that in a little bit.
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Zimbabwe: a daunting social reality

The big news out of Zimbabwe last week was that inflation had dropped down to three digits. Great! We’re very happy for ourselves. But really, what does that news matter when prices went up dramatically and our currency was devalued this month on the heels of Gono’s “Sunrise,” more like sunset, project. For the record, inflation is a measure of the increase of prices over a set period. Why am I telling you this? Because dear reader, I want you not to be surprised when August’s month on month inflation figures come out; it is going to be much higher than the celebrated levels of July.

Thank you very much Gideon Gono.

Speaking of Gono, there’s a new consipiracy theory floating around out there. This one, sired by exiled businessman Mutumwa Mawere, speculates that Gono (like Jonathan Moyo) is exploiting the power vacuum in ZANU-PF to become law unto himself. Quoth Mawere

The role of emergency powers in a democratic state is a different subject that requires its own assessment but in this column, I thought it would be useful as we critically evaluate the assertion that Jonathan Moyo and Gono are probably the two most important individuals in Zimbabwe who have sufficiently understood the power vacuum in Zanu PF to effectively and efficiently use Presidential Powers to undermine not only parliament but unconstitutionally undermine civil liberties in the name of national interest.

Interesting theory.

It is startling but true that Mugabe has done nothing in both cases to reign in the apparently limitless power these “young turks” on their mediocre campaigns to “reform” Zimbabwe. On the contrary and much to the chagrin of ZANU-PF’s elder statesmen Mugabe has defended both men viciously, at times threatening to the wrath of the law to protect his young guns. This despite everyone, and I mean everyone else’s realization of how far “out in left field” their ideas and have been, to quote the oft used American analogy. What! Converting Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation into six strategic business units? That was Moyo. What! Converting Zimbabwe’s currency midstream and dubbing that monetary reform? That was Gono.

If Mawere is right, it’s only a matter of time before Gono’s new found influence crumbles. Just like Moyo before him.

I’ve been wondering lately, is it me or is there a real irony of ironies playing out in Zimbabwean news reports. In this report from the Herald, president Mugabe suggests (for the umpteenth time this week) that agricultural output is increasing this year. Yet over here the nation,s millers are saying,

Zimbabwe has run out of maize-meal, its main staple food, in yet another sign of a deepening crisis in the southern African country.

In a stark reminder of how the gains of independence from Britain 26 years ago were fast eroding away, Zimbabweans woke up on Monday to celebrate Heroes Day holiday held in commemoration of fallen heroes of the liberation struggle, but with shops empty of maize-meal.

The chairman of the Zimbabwe Grain Millers Association (ZGMA) that groups private milling firms, Thembinkosi Ndlovu, said the countrywide shortage of maize-meal was because the state-owned Grain Marketing Board (GMB) had not supplied maize to millers because it did not have any in stock.

Isn’t it ironic?

To be fair, allow me now dear reader to invoke yet another concept from basic economics ; market failure. A market failure is basically when the market system is unable to satisfy the public good and/or create the most efficient exchange of products and money.

(You should know by now) I belabor myself to elucidate economic concepts with just reason. The supply of grain to millers in Zimbabwe is a market. The Grain Marketing Board, a parastatal has a monopoly in this market but they are failing to satisfy the public interests. This is no small public interest either; in Zimbabwe, as in many places across Africa cornmeal is the staple. Therefore this (and can we have a drumroll please,) is a market failure. A (agricultural) commodity exchange market failure in an agrobased economy. Our economy cannot function if we cannot get agriculture right. Efficiently operating the agricultural sector is the most basic requirement for the sustenance of our entire economy.

Whatever it is, the mother of all ironies or a market failure, the reality is life on Zimbabwe’s streets is officially past impossible. This is a daunting social reality.

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