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Saturday, 15 September 2007

Zimbabwe's slow death...

The BBC is banned from Zimbabwe, but one of their reporters Sue-Lloyd Roberts has gone there undercover. You can watch the 20 minute video here.

Update: In the meantime the documentary seems to be having an impact:

Writing in the Observer, Dr John Sentamu likened Mr Mugabe to the Ugandan dictator Idi Amin. "Mugabe is the worst kind of racist dictator," he wrote. He told the BBC that Gordon Brown should lead a coalition of countries in mounting stricter international sanctions against Zimbabwe.

The archbishop highlighted a recent report from Zimbabwe for BBC Two's Newsnight which exposed drastic food shortages, infant mortality, average life expectancies in the mid-30s and poor living conditions in townships. "The appalling poverty suffered by those who queue daily for bread in southern Harare is a world apart from the shops, boutiques and sprinkled lawns of northern Harare, where Mugabe's supporters live in palatial surroundings," he said in the newspaper.


  1. Thanks for the link, interesting report. A bit ironic that by banning the BBC (and opposition journalism in general) within the country, ZANU-PF has effectively created an environment of guerrilla journalism: imagery and reports still get out of the country, just without any direct input from sources loyal to the government.

    Censorship is such an ineffective tool over the long run, yet another way that ZANU-PF policy reminds me of old Soviet states. The indications that low-level police and military personnel are routinely using their positions in order to secure goods from sanctioned (increasingly only state-owned) sources which have much higher parallel market resale values for themselves (or their superiors), are a strong sign that the government has squeezed the regulatory "fist" too tightly, and that very pressure is accelerating the economy's escape from their grasp.

    Contrary to what American "fans of Reagan" continually allege, Disney and Levi's probably did more to accelerate the downfall of the Soviet system than MX-missiles or other external pressures. By the late 80's it was becoming far more advantageous for a party member to seek to use party affiliation as a shield in order to profit on the parallel market than to seek advancement within the party apparatus itself. Over an astonishingly brief span of time, these parallel market transactions between party members began to receive more effective support from regulatory agencies than state market activities, resulting in massive shifts (thefts) of money and goods and resulting shortages in state market supply chains. Parallel activities became more efficient and state ones less so, more and more consumers came to rely on the parallel marketeers, those who could avoid state backlash because their party was the state.

    Thus we may see something similar emerge from ZANU-PF's "Price Blitz" and "Murambatsvina" strategies: where the only way to make money is on the parallel market, and the only way to succeed on the parallel market is to be shielded by power within ZANU-PF itself. The newly constructed mansions depicted in the video may indicate that it is already happening.

  2. Sue Lloyd-Roberts is an a-hole.

    In a previous report, she provided 'balance' of her white setterl interviews with asking the opinion of an indentured labourer, with his master glaring from only feet away.

    'Fair and balanced', as Fox News would say.

    The BBC's trackrecord on the Zimbabwe issue is abysmal. If there is a single issue that has dragged down the reputation of the BBC, it is this one.

  3. MrK,

    Yes, Neil Cavuto...the best man on television...Brit Hume...the Beltway Boys and all that....fair and balanced!! Fox News is my favorite News Channel..after hearing the biased CNN/BBC liberal media during the course of the day...there's nothing better than
    sitting there and hearing fair and balanced news...

    On the subject at hand...
    The situation looks very bleak. And to be fair it is consistent with the reports by other journalists.

    I spotted a 'John' there, but not sure that is the John you speak of.

    The important points I picked up from there were:

    1. Zimbabwe now has a barter economy.

    2. Zimbabwe has cannot get worse

    3. Zimbabwe's fastest growing industy is funerals

    4. Zimbabwe is on verge of a serious epidemic that could prove extremely catastrophic.

    5. The neighbours selfishness is what has kept Mugabe in power. South Africa has minimal incentive to act. It is draining Zimbabwe's expertise and sits there smiling..same with Zambia, same with Botswana.

  4. Yakima,

    Interesting comparisons with the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union eventually collapsed. But there is no sign that the Harare Government is about to collapse.

    I think Zimbabwe is more similar to Iraq in the Saddam days. A miniority group of people squeezed power and oppressed the majority. But unlike Iraq where the Sunnis oppressed the Shias..Shonas in the heartlands and the Ndebeles in the towns are suffering alike...

    The Harare Government, like Saddam's Iraq is beyond implosion from within. Its power is so consolidated, and the people so embolden by a common hatred of the West.

    In the video Mugabe actually says "we are governing Zimbabwe better than Blair did with Britain"!

  5. 1. Zimbabwe now has a barter economy.

    Did she mention that this was an indirect result of the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act of 2001?

    On Fox News Channel - I used to listen to them a lot too. Even the 'Good Ol' Beltway Boys', Mort Kondracke and Fred Barnes.

    And I liked Greta van Susteren, who at least was good at what she did - crime news. However, even she at one point had to do these political interviews.

    Now a lot of the news pieces I watch are on Youtube and the blogs.

  6. MrK,

    The sanctions really are light.
    Its infact difficult to convince anyone that the credit sanctions are the worst form of sanctions that anyone can impose.

    Trade sanctions are much stricter. This is why the good Archibishop is calling for severe sanctions. I notice that Gershom is actually calling for kicking out Mugabe on his blog....

    I think that would be pointless...SADC really is just a talking shop...until I start seeing new infrastructure being delivered through it, I will remain skeptical...

    On FOX...yes, Greta..she's good..they've gone crazy now with O J Simpson...they have been waiting for him for 12 years now....

    Where are you based now?

  7. Cho,

    We've discussed this before, but here are 2 indirect sources, which claim that Fidelis Mhashu of the MDC said on an edition of Hardtalk (BBC) that the MDC wants to return all the land to the commercial farmers.

    If they try this, it could turn into a civil war.

    I haven't found this confirmed on the BBC's website yet, as most Hardtalk programmes are online.

    In fact, to date, the only solid thing that has come from the opposition ranks on how the issue of governance will be approached was Fidelis Mhashu�s shocking statement on BBC�s HARDtalk that his party would return all land to white commercial farmers.

    After Banket came the MDC's secretary for education, Fidelis Mhashu boob on BBCs HARDTalk programme, where he told his interviewer that the MDC would return land to white commercial farmers if elected to power.

  8. whether we like it or not ZIMBABWEAN economy will never survive without the market of it's production,UK/USA.

    The land will belong to the black zimbabweans,but who evers knows it's economic history will understand where the strength came from.

    mugabe and the opposition are fighting over petty issues,when the dust settles then reality will hit HARD and people will realise what a rough ride they paid for.

    BLACK AFRICANS should find other clever ways to claim some of the land predominantly held by white africans.some of these guys have paid legally for this land,the land grabbers are dead and forgotten.

    the zimbabwe issue is a greater fight between the black and white africans. the unfortunate part is mugabe thinks he can win but almost everyone knows the real outcome.

    it's like coming out of your house when your neighbour screams KABWALALA,the heroe usually mugabe thinks he is a heroe,there forces that you can't see, which you can't fight.

  9. BLACK AFRICANS should find other clever ways to claim some of the land predominantly held by white africans.some of these guys have paid legally for this land,the land grabbers are dead and forgotten.

    Who did they pay? Did they pay market price?

    The land will belong to the black zimbabweans,but who evers knows it's economic history will understand where the strength came from.

    You mean the 'white africans'?

    Sorry, but if you want to supply some proof for anything you say, go ahead. Otherwise, it is just so much Rhodie bar talk. :)

  10. 'Not in a thousand years'.

    Remember that one?

  11. MrK,

    I agree that the MDC has no coherent strategy.

    Returning the land would be nearly impractical and could distabilise any new MDC government.

    As I have argued previously, I don't see the MDC governing Zimbabwe for another decade. Zimbabwe has a divided opposition. Crucially the military are too entrenched in ZANU PF.

  12. "it's like coming out of your house when your neighbour screams KABWALALA,the heroe usually dies."


    In the old days..when the person screamed in the village everyone came out to help!!

  13. Cho,

    Check out this article in The Indepdent, by Dominic Lawson.

    " Under the Lancaster House agreement with the government of Margaret Thatcher we had pledged to finance the compensation to white farmers as their farmland was gradually handed over to black Zimbabweans – who in practice were always going to be Mugabe's mates. On 5 November 1997, however, Claire Short, then the Secretary of State for International Development, wrote an astonishingly ill-judged letter to the Zimbabwean Minister of Agriculture and Land, Kumbirai Kangai.

    It brusquely cast aside all previous undertakings: "We do not accept that Britain has a special responsibility to meet the costs of land purchase in Zimbabwe. We are a new Government from diverse backgrounds without links in former colonial interests. My own origins are Irish and as you know we were colonised not colonisers."

    It would have been hard to construct a letter more skilfully designed to enrage Mugabe – or even a man with a much thicker skin than the Zimbabwean leader. Short's amazing assertion – that because her family was of Irish stock there was no need to honour a commitment to Zimbabwe entered into by a previous British government – was an inimitable mixture of shamelessness and sanctimony. That friend of mine who knows Mugabe says that Short's letter sent him into a rage against Britain which has scarcely abated for the succeeding decade.

    Who knows, perhaps it was awareness of his own minister's responsibility for the quite unnecessary transformation of Mugabe from friend to foe which deterred Tony Blair from applying his doctrine of liberal imperialism to Zimbabwe. In any case, New Labour has learnt from its adventures in southern Iraq that it is relatively straightforward to kick the door in: it's quite another matter to clear up the mess afterwards. "

  14. MrK,

    Thanks for the link!

    I have always thought that what Clare Short did was completely inept. It's the sort of thing that is written once without checking. I can't see how anyone would write such a thing and read it again and then let it go...incompent indeed...But then again, Clare Short has never struck me as someone who is well joined up there....

    In general Dominic's article is fairly balanced I think.

    I see LPM has drawn the heat of Rod Little in times - check here

    On Zimbabwe, what is your view over the latest proposals for Zimbabweans in diaspora to vote? It seems to me that would actually be a terrible idea. I have never been favour of extending the vote to people abroad unless the processes are right and the embassies are manned by career diplomats. Such moves just breed corruption.

  15. MrK,

    Thanks for the great link, nice to see some post facto recognition of just how badly astray Short led the British in her role as "diplomat". Would that we could see similar developments in the American media with regard to their own complicity in the Zimbabwean debacle.


    Fascinating development, if it all holds up that is. Is the exact text of this 18th Amendment to the Constitution available anywhere? On the surface it sounds like a genuine decentralization of power. The increased number of MPs and Senators will of course only decentralize power to the extent that they are allocated democratically. It does no good to add district MPs if the outcomes have been "Gerrymandered" in advance, or worse altered after the fact by "mini-Murambatsvinas."

    The new Electoral Commission is to be selected by Parliament instead of the Presidency, once again a positive sign, however the means by which Parliament selects is also important. If the majority simply appoints all the members, then electoral outcomes are likely to be different from a circumstance where Commission members are selected proportionally.

    The proposal to extend the vote to the Diaspora population relies on the success of the Electoral Commission. If the EC can be relied on to accurately and equitably verify and process absentee ballots (a big "if"), then they don't pose much greater risk of corruption than any other form of ballot fraud. Still, it begs the question of where exactly these votes will be counted, will they have their own "diaspora MPs"? If not, who votes in which district, who chooses?

    As has been intimated earlier in your Musings on a Post-Mugabe Zimbabwe blog, no reform is likely to make much difference without military consent. The reverse may also be true, if at any point the bulk of the military refuses to be used as an instrument of policy enforcement against their own people, then I do not see how this government could stand against determined popular resistance any longer than the Soviets did. Mugabe may have to choose between a role as Elder Statesman like Gorbachev, or hiding from a vengeful revolutionary government death sentence like Saddam, even without an invasion. Hopefully electoral reform will help improve democracy in Zimbabwe without simply perpetuating a de facto one party state, or creating a new political monopoly for MDC with a defunct ZANU-PF unable to effectively object to their excesses.

  16. I have always thought that what Clare Short did was completely inept.

    What surprises me is that the defunding of the 'willing buyer/willing seller' land reform program became and stayed policy.

    It should have been obvious even at the time, that if land reform wasn't done one way, it would be done another way instead?

    Were they cutting costs after they came to power, and decide that the Zimbabwe program had to go?

  17. Cho,

    I see LPM has drawn the heat of Rod Little in times - check here

    Too bad Rod Little wasn't more precise in his criticism. He could have added the mining deals, FDI, the Ministry of Lands and the fact that his own daughter was a recipient of land, the Local Government minister's demolition of markets, etc.

    In short, everything president Mugabe is being singled out for.

    He also forgot to mention ZDERA.


    Would that we could see similar developments in the American media with regard to their own complicity in the Zimbabwean debacle.

    Thanks. I doubt ZDERA will ever be discussed in the mainstream US media. They seem to be allergic to anything that is foreign news.

  18. Yakima,

    I am chasing the 18th Amendment to the Constitution. It should be on the web somewhere. Nothing is hidden on Zimbabwe! I suspect one of the "anti"-Mugabe sites have it. My Zim contacts have been quiet :)

    On your broader points. It does indeed seem that there are a lot of uncertainties. The effect of this new electoral reform could go either way. Its very much the practicalities that will determine the outcome rather than letter of the law.

    We have to remember that institutions, even if there are enshrined in law are only as good as the political will to see them work. That political will is often driven by precedent and "people pressure". Unless the Zimbabwean people can collectively ensure that what is written is enforced not much will happen. Of course this is where clever lawmakers come in. The idea is to write the requirements as complicated as possible to the common man on the street!

    Its difficult to be optimistic about the outcome. I fear what will happen is that after this electoral reform ZANU-PF's rule will be legitimised. Alternatively the elections could be genuinely free and fair - but MDC would not accept the result. To MDC the only sign of fairness is electoral victory! Indeed all of us distrust corrupt incumbents. So the only time we accept that something fair has occured, is when the status quo is challenged.

  19. Hello,
    It looks like the video is no longer avaliable. Can you help me to find this video somewhere? I really need it.


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