231 Million Percent Inflation
With an official rate of 231 million percent as of October 2008, the sky is the limit for Zimbabwe's astronomical inflation. In Zimbabwe anything called official is a lie! It is the highest inflation rate ever recorded since recording began. As that figure became official coming from the government's Central Statistical Office (CSO), many economic experts disputed it arguing that inflation was well over 5 quintillion percent. Regrettably there seems to be no end in sight to solve the nation's economic crisis given the paralysis that characterizes contemporary Zimbabwean politics. It is an economy whose wheels have all come off.
'Zimbabwe is Mine'(to wreck!)
In addition to being a catalyst for the ongoing conundrum, Robert Mugabe is the CEO and author of Zimbabwe's tragedies. He brazenly claims that "Zimbabwe is mine"; therefore he can do whatever he wants (as he has done over the past 28 years) regardless of what the people of Zimbabwe want or vote for. Behaving weirdly did not start today; the nation is paying the price of an unchecked mental case. There is a pattern; Mugabe has always been a malicious schemer whose machinations do not serve the nation any good other than perpetuating self-serving interests. The UN experts who described Mugabe as a "mad dictator" are correct just as US Department spokesperson Sean McCormack succinctly rebutted: "Well, last time the world checked, Zimbabwe belonged to the people of Zimbabwe." I could not agree more!
As of December 31 2008, official reports from the World Health Organization put Zimbabwe's Cholera's death toll at 1 551 while new infections have shot past 30 000. It is very difficult to determine the exact number of deaths and infections given the calamitous state of Zimbabwe's health delivery system. The bulk of the population also resides in rural communities where most cases go unreported. Sadly, it is apparent that the cholera crisis has just started.
While barely reported, Chiadzwa massacres in late 2008 represented some of the most horrific scenes of the year. On a daily basis, Chiadzwa attracted thousands of impoverished yet enterprising Zimbabweans trying to eke out a living by panning diamonds. Their only crime was tampering with the wealth that 'belongs' to Mugabe and his kleptocrats. The military sprayed them with bullets from helicopters. Victims were dumped in mass graves. At one point the Deputy Mayor of Mutare, Admire Mukovera asked for "space for a mass grave for 78 people killed" in Chiadzwa. While the actual number of the Chiadzwa massacres is an official secret as the area was completely sealed by government troops to avoid public access, journalists estimate them to be as high as 500.
Victims of Political Violence
More than 600 died in cold-blooded murder yet their killers are out there, alive and well. Here are a few reminders of Mugabe's victims: Tonderai Ndira (the hero of heroes) who was abducted by ten armed 'Mugabe men' and later bludgeoned to death (May 2008): Joshua Bakacheza, the MDC driver whose decomposed body was found abandoned near a Beatrice farm (July 2008). Tabitha Marume who was shot and killed by soldiers at Chiwetu Rest Camp (April 2008); Percy Muchiwa, a teacher in Guruve who was beaten to death (April 2008); Bigboy Zhuwawo and Tenos Manyimo died in Mashonaland Central after being attacked by Zanu PF militants (April 2008); Clemence Dube, an MDC polling agent who was attacked in Poshai Village of Shurugwi; Sadly, the list is endless! In addition the 29 March nation-wide post election violence exacerbated the situation as more women were raped while opposition members were tortured and killed.
They were described as a 'sham election' by the US and the UK. Having taken more than a month to announce own defeat, Mugabe and his men refused to concede defeat after the violent 29-March 2008 elections. Instead they called for another round of elections, presided over by the military junta's Joint Operations Command. It was another bloody campaign that culminated in MDC pulling out resulting in a solo contest by Zanu (PF). To this day Mugabe is an illegitimate President who said that he was not going to give up "because of a mere X".
Surge in State-Sponsored Abductions
While Justina Mukoko has come to personify the misery suffered by those who get clamped in the jaws of Mugabe's terror, the story of many is still untold. Now we know that a total of 560 abductions took place in Zimbabwe since January 2008. Of that number only 220 cases were closed because the remains of the murdered Zimbabweans were identified. The rest have not been accounted for as their whereabouts are still unknown. Zimbabwe still resembles a typical war zone.
The closure of all state-run hospitals was the epitome of the death of Zimbabwe's health delivery system. According to the World Health organization, medical staff stopped going to work because they were literally working for nothing as inflation rendered their meager salaries worthless. Just like supermarkets and shops with empty shelves in Zimbabwe, government bankruptcy did not spare hospitals which were left without any supplies, stuff, staff or materials. Recently, UN experts reported that "Zimbabwe's health system has completely collapsed - it cannot control the cholera outbreak which is spreading throughout the country, with a daily increase in the death toll,".
First it was political violence that led to nationwide school closures as Mugabe's violent presidential campaign of 2008 wantonly targeted teachers and aid workers accused of supporting the opposition MDC. Now that Zimbabwe is a basket case (as opposed to bread-basket country that it used to be), a severe shortage of maize has led to the closure of most schools in Zimbabwe as far back as September. It is all part and parcel of a nationwide food crisis that is also threatening to decimate half the population of Zimbabwe.
Banning of NGO's
In June 2008, President Mugabe banned all aid agencies that were carrying out field operations in Zimbabwe at a time when the country was in dire need of humanitarian assistance. The aid agencies were accused of working in connivance with the opposition party to effect a 'regime change.' Operations of hundreds of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) were paralyzed yet they played such a pivotal role in providing water, food, shelter, health care and education for millions of people in the midst of the country's economic malaise. Over the years, aid agencies have done a remarkable job in place of a diminished government. They helped to rebuild and sustain the country's health and education system. To this very day (after their reinstatement as the epidemic got out of control) the NGO's are largely accredited for averting a large-scale humanitarian disaster in Zimbabwe, far greater than what has happened.
Revoked Knighthood and Honorary Degrees
On June 25 2008, Queen Elizabeth II wasted no time cancelling and revoking the 1994 Knighthood bestowed on Mugabe (never mind the reasons surrounding the decision to bestow that honour in the first place). Likewise, University of Massachusetts at Amherst stripped him of a chain of honorary degrees, a similar move made by the University of Edinburgh the previous year.
Lies, lies, lies
It is no secret that lack of sanitation and hygiene caused Zimbabwe's cholera epidemic contrary to the lies peddled by Mugabe's regime that "Cholera is a calculated racist attack on Zimbabwe by the former colonial power so that they can invade the country," Mugabe's Information Minister also went on state television saying: "The cholera epidemic in Zimbabwe is a serious biological, chemical war force, a genocidal onslaught, on the people of Zimbabwe by the British." As far back as January 2007, the Associated Press reported about Zimbabwe's National Water Authority (ZINWA) issuing a deadly water contamination warning that "a breakdown at a major sewage treatment plant had left it spewing 72 mega-liters of raw sewage per day into a river that feeds into Lake Chivero, Harare's main source of drinking water."On December 11 2008, Mugabe also shocked the world when he stated that "Cholera no longer exists". The death toll doubled three weeks later.
5.5 million urgently need food
According to UN, Zimbabwe is sitting on time bomb liable to explode anytime if nothing radical is done by the international community to immediately send food supplies into the country. In addition to erratic weather that causes droughts, gross mismanagement of the nation's food supply by Zimbabwe's Grain Marketing Board (GMB) caused the crisis. On one hand Mugabe and his men continue to deride the International community whose leaders are the US and the UK while on the other hand they desperately need their help.
Shortage and Queues
In 2007, they were used to shortages and queues of basic commodities such as milk, sugar, bread and meat as empty shelves became the order of the day. For the people of Zimbabwe 2008 was the peaking of a major economic crisis as they could not even access their worthless currency 'sitting' in the bank while losing value by the minute. Queuing and experiencing shortages is now a way of life while the unavailability of bank notes ushered in great misery. As the year drew to a close (November 2008), uniformed soldiers went on a rampage rioting over cash shortages.
Treacherous Border Jumping by Women and Children
Images of Zimbabwean women with infants on their backs jumping razor-wire fences were a sorry sight that disturbed anyone with a conscience, let alone those of pregnant women and school kids navigating crocodile-infested waters of the Limpopo to cross into South Africa. It is not about the survival of the fittest but about the survival of the needy, forced out of their beloved homeland by political violence, poverty and hunger. The problems only start after crossing the border!
In March 2008, South Africa resembled a war zone as some of its citizens murdered over 60 immigrants after unleashing violent attacks on foreigners, predominantly Zimbabweans. It is estimated that over 2 million Zimbabweans have found refuge in South Africa having fled political violence. Others simply escaped the economic misery brought about by Mugabe and his men. While other foreign nationals had the luxury of voluntarily returning to their countries, Zimbabweans have no choice as long as Mugabe and his men continue to populate the corridors of usurped power in that country. Zimbabwe is not their usual home anymore; it is a place that smacks of death.
Concocted Treason charges
Sounds familiar? True. It is a tried and tested strategy to distract the people of Zimbabwe from real issues of solving the people's problems. In 2008, the hapless Tendai Biti of the opposition MDC appeared in public for the first time extremely shackled (complete with leg irons) after a protracted incarceration facing treason charges. He still faces the concocted charges. In August 2005 Morgan Tsvangirai was finally acquitted of fabricated treason charges that dragged on forever. Representing the State, prosecutor Florence Ziyambi declared: "The state is withdrawing charges before plea"
Two-year old boy in jail
As the illegal detentions and abductions were brought to light the last week of December 2008, another disturbing moment took center stage - an unfamiliar political detainee. It is a two year old boy who is among the 23 'perceived enemies of state.' Zimbabwean police shamelessly violated a ruling by High Court Judge Yunus Omarjee of December 27 which "ordered an unconditional release of 23 opposition members -- including a 2-year-old boy."according to CNN. Several news organizations have reported that the baby was also beaten up. How low can Mugabe's government sink?
4 Positive things
Mugabe is cornered
When his government finally delivered Morgan Tsvangirai's passport and a letter of appointment as Prime Minister, it surely showed Mugabe's desperation. Two weeks earlier, it was the same Mugabe who called Morgan Tsvangirai a "political prostitute".
Tightening of Screws by SADC
Neighboring countries such as South Africa and Botswana that are importing instability and cholera are increasingly becoming restless. They also want a GNU deal struck as soon as possible. Pressure is up and a political deal is in the offing. The GNU deal is alive and well!
Break away of Zapu
The splitting of Zapu and Zanu is healthy for Zimbabwe's democracy. While it adds to political pluralism, it is imperative for Zapu to move beyond regrouping to merely grieve over Matebeleland Holocaust of more than twenty years ago or to rekindle tribal diatribes. Zimbabwe has changed. You cannot have a party for a specific region or tribe and expect to lead a nation. Get me right, while the massacres of Matebeleland should not go unpunished, Zapu must integrate itself into mainstream Zimbabwean politics and become nationally competitive. I do not want to think that the goal is to position itself for political opportunism. Zimbabwean politics is replete with episodes of opportunism, just ask Arthur Mutambara or Jonathan Moyo . ( I wrote a piece on that on my blog www.nationalvision.wordpress.com archives)
You and Me
We care deeply about the plight of the suffering people of Zimbabwe and we will make a difference as we continue to press for change.
Mugabe must be focusing his energies on redoing the government of national unity agreement which he deceptively authored so that Zimbabwe can move forward. With continued abductions, Zanu PF's unflinching insistence on retaining control of Home Affairs (that 'own' the police) is worrisome. Most of those abductions are masterminded and spearheaded by the police. What will stop them when Morgan Tsvangirai is a titular Prime Minister? Already Zanu PF has Defence Ministry and the deadly partisan spies fall under its ministerial portfolios. People have to understand where Morgan Tsvangirai is coming from. As for me, I will not set foot in Zimbabwe until my President is President (sic)! Vangandiita kanyama kanyama ('BBQ me').
The need to extend Zimbabwe's begging bowls internationally is increasing given the gargantuan problems facing the country in 2009. The poverty in Zimbabwe is dehumanizing! Mr President please do not continue to fart in public as that scares away would-be helpers. Your flatulence problem is not terminal. Eating less of that meal of pork and beans can solve it. In 2009, please spare us that perennial vitriol.
Zimbabwe's mounting problems will never be solved by you and your Zanu (PF). Your diatribes serve Zimbabwe no good, but only aggravate the situation. Be reminded that at this stage, Zimbabwe requires more than just a mere political settlement. A comprehensive development strategy is required in order to solve problems bedeviling an imploded economy.
The way 2008 ended is quite ominous. Although 2009 is agog with expectations of a better life, new problems will dwarf existing ones if the government of national unity fails to succeed because of Mugabe. Simultaneously, Mugabe's political fate is being sealed as the odds against him continue to mount while the social time bomb ticks even faster. Be reminded that continued political paralysis is a zero-sum game.
It is in the best interests of all citizens of Zimbabwe to demand change in 2009, if not, Mugabe will continue to sleepwalk the nation to its grave. It is the people of Zimbabwean who are bearing the agony and brunt of a failed leadership, 'a tragic failure of leadership' as stated by Nelson Mandela (who happens to be Africa's best politician ever!)
However it is comforting to note that for now Morgan Tsvangirai is Zimbabwe's last and best hope to get Zimbabwe back on the path of sanity. He has already treaded the treacherous politics of Zimbabwe with great honor, selflessness, grace and humility defying all appeasement attempts by Mugabe.
Dear God, for 2009 I have one request on behalf of the people of Zimbabwe: Please increase Robert Gabriel Mugabe's sensitivity to the plight of the suffering poor people of Zimbabwe. If possible, sneak in psychedelics into that State House in order to reduce the amount of cruelty and violence within him. Transform his declaration that "we have degrees in violence" into "we have degrees in peace," for we know fully-well that Mugabe and his men do not want peace or political progress, "kubvongodza muto kuseva kweakaguta." The status quo benefits them.
The people of Zimbabwe cannot afford another year of the same with Mugabe at the helm of Zimbabwean politics. For 2009 the choices for the people of Zimbabwe are very simple: Change, Riot or Rot!