The surreal recent developments in Zimbabwe do not portend the long-awaited dawn of democracy. Rather it signals the transition from one-man rule to one-party rule. The role of the opposition parties in this charade is to provide legitimacy to the process of usurping power by Emmerson Mnangagwa. Perhaps the only heartening news of this “non-coup” is that the 37-year dictatorship by a senile despot is at an end and that Mugabe’s former secretary, now wife, is no longer the preferred and only candidate as future president.
Main picture: Zimbabwe unplugged referring to Grace’s attack on a model with an electrical extension cord
After countless false dawns and the violent suppression of the democratic wishes of the Zimbabwe people, can they finally dare to dream that the decade’s long evening of darkness will awaken to a fresh new dawn?
In the throes of an insurmountable economic decline with formal employment now only 10% and economic activity at 50% of that 10 years ago, the question on all Zimbabweans’ minds is whether it will be economic dislocation, revolt within the previously submissive ”war veterans” or biological inevitability in Mugabe’s death that will ultimately wrest control from the Zimbabwean president’s hands.
Which of these possibilities will eventuate and, more importantly for the average Zimbabwean, will it be peaceful or will it culminate in further unforeseen dislocation.
Whatever the outcome, Zimbabwe is clearly entering unchartered waters.
Main picture: Recent anti-Mugabe demonstrations
Zisco Steel located at Redcliff in Zimbabwe highlights the problem when politics, factionalism, cronyism and corruption override economic considerations. The end result was the destruction of the steel industry in Zimbabwe.
At Independence in February 1980, Zisco Steel was the second largest integrated steel plant in Africa. It employed some 6000 workers in a network of companies that produced rolled steel, long products, reinforcing rods and wire. Half its output was exported. More importantly, it supplied Zimbabwe with the majority of its steel requirements.
Main picture: Zisco Steel when still operational
Only 700 000 people among a population of 13 million have formal jobs, less than at independence in 1980. Many of those jobs are in the bloated civil service & military and are clearly unsustainable. Ninety percent of jobs reside in the informal sector, where reliance on diaspora remittances remains crucial. Compounding the problem is that 80% of government revenue is spent on civil services wages; hence no maintenance of any kind but the most rudimentary is possible.
Has the tipping point been reached?
Signs abound everywhere.
Main picture: Farm invasions destroyed agricultural production converting Zimbabwe from an exporter to an importer of agricultural products.
After many false alarms regarding Mugabe’s ultimate demise, could the next year finally witness the final dissolution of the Mugabe’s Regime? It goes without saying that one of the factors could be biology – Mugabe’s superannuation – but ignoring that possibility it is most likely the economic dimension that deposes him. What are the numbers behind this bold prediction?
Main picture: Burchell’s zebra in Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe. Photo by Ariadne van Zandbergen
Almost forty years ago – 39 to exact – I worked for Price Waterhouse in Rhodesia as it was then known. The objective was to complete my articles while at the same time avoiding military service – the interminable “camps” – in South Africa. What this interlude provided me with was an insight into Rhodesia that has provided context for much of what has occurred since independence in February 1980. Is the end game in sight?
Main picture: The recently announced “Bond Notes” will ultimately become as worthless as the billion Zim dollar note
For just over three months I stayed at the Hilton Hotel while I worked in Pietermaritzburg recently. Staying there also was an ex-Rhodesian of roughly my age. This is his story in his words of his experiences and emotions during that war and its turbulent consequences.
First my experience when living in Rhodesia.
As portion of my articles for my CA were served with Price Waterhouse in Salisbury in 1977, I experienced the effects of the terrorist war first hand. I rapidly developed an affinity for the Rhodesian’s rugged demeanour in which the rigours of war were borne with equanimity. A second social phenomenon also struck me as an endearing attribute; a largely classless [white] society. Homogeneity and a common enemy would bind the white society inextricably together.
Main picture: The Rhodesian SAS