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Thoughts on 2016 and a look at 2017 PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Sunday, 18 December 2016 12:19

It is almost Christmas. Another year has gone by in Zimbabwe and we again look back on a year that has been full of changes with no change at all in the way we live or our country is governed. The only relief is that we have had a short spell of rain which has brought relief to many parts of the country but still shows disturbing signs that climate change is no longer a projection but a daily reality.

 

The year opened with a sharp reduction in the amount of cash people could withdraw from their banks. This triggered a steady deterioration in the cash situation so that by the end of the year, restrictions were limiting daily withdrawals as low as $20. The reason for the bank crisis is a massive deficit in the budget which has resulted in the State issuing billions of dollars in the form of Treasury Bills and this has absorbed virtually all the real money in the banking system.

 

In 2016, the regime went two steps further in this process – first they started to take money illegally, from people’s accounts via the RTGS system and bank Nostro accounts. By the end of the year this was reflected in the accounts of the Reserve Bank as an unsecured, interest free overdraft. This paralysed the bank transfer system and by the end of the year transfers are being delayed by anything up to 6 months as the Bank struggles to find the money to meet their obligations and the needs of the country.

 

Then came the decision to issue a new currency – called ‘Bond Notes’. They have struggled with this decision, knowing full well that it could trigger a violent response from an already angry and frustrated population. Eventually they cautiously released $25 million in the new notes into the market. They made no difference to the cash situation as banks were forced to further reduce daily withdrawals. Queues lengthened outside all banks and the US dollar is trading at about an average premium now of 20 per cent.

 

A former Bank employee has told me that they have printed US$2,5 billion in the new currency and have been holding this in storage in Harare for months. Any move to release significant volumes of the new notes will lead inevitably to a sharp reduction in their real market value and inflation – which has averaged nearly minus 2 per cent all year, will start to gain momentum.

 

On the economic front, the slowdown in all economic activity that started as soon as Zanu PF took control of the country in August 2013, continued. Company closures and unemployment rose and the stock market continued its slow decline. A small rise in share values at the end of the year as people tried to use their “RTGS dollars” – a phantom form of currency, to buy real assets that might hold their value in the turbulent times ahead, made little difference overall and you can buy equities here for 10 per cent of their asset values.

 

This was reflected in revenues to the State which declined across the board despite every effort to squeeze water from stone by the authorities. It  was not helped by the discovery of massive and endemic corruption in the Revenue Authority. By the year end 25 per cent of all State expenditure had to be funded by borrowed money in a market that simply had no liquidity at all. Desperate measures to try and get financial assistance from any quarter, has had no success and the latest effort to try and clear arrears with the ADB have fallen flat.

 

On the political front the conflicts in the Zanu PF Party increased in intensity throughout the year. Increasingly frail, Mr. Mugabe was unable to control his Party leadership and all he was able to do was to keep them from killing each other and retaining a semblance of balance between the main factions. The big loser in all of this in 2016 has been Mr. Mnangagwa, the Vice President and Minister of Justice. For three years he has controlled all the levers of hard power in the regime and has clearly been working towards the early (or late) retirement of the President and becoming his successor.

 

Despite the fact that he held all the aces, locally and the support of both China and South Africa, he has not been able to deal with the leadership of his rival faction in the Party and get Mr. Mugabe to step down. His fate has been sealed by the decision yesterday, at the Masvingo meeting of the Party; that Mr. Mugabe will be the candidate of the Zanu PF Party in 2018 when he will be 94 years old and barely able to walk and speak.

 

So Zanu PF goes into the coming year, weaker than at any time in its history, led by a man who is visibly incapable of fulfilling his responsibilities, either in the Party or the State. The faction war that has enveloped the Party since 2014 is unresolved and can only intensify and grow as competition to replace Mr. Mugabe as leader accelerates. Already we hear rumors that one faction is courting Mrs. Mujuru to try and get her back into the fold and on the side of one grouping to try and shift the balance of power.

 

One significant development in 2016 has been the growing rift between the War veterans and the Zanu PF Party. Because of their roots in the military this has profound implications and could be a decisive factor in the year ahead.

 

On the Opposition front, the news at the end of the year that they are considering the formation of an Alliance to fight the next election took the country by surprise but has been widely accepted. Further to this agreement, the statements last week that the Opposition will seek to establish a national government to control the State for the next 5 year term, was equally welcomed. The problems that will confront the next government after 38 years of corrupt and incompetent Zanu PF led government, will be so great that only a national government representing our best brains and talents, could be expected to cope.

 

So what about 2017? To me it looks as if 2017 will be little different to 2016, except that all our problems will be amplified. The fiscal deficit will continue at the present level but will be funded by printing currency – the result a resumption of inflation and the declining value of the currency in circulation – the hard currencies will vanish from formal markets except for what the Reserve Bank can steal from exporters.

 

Asset values will not recover and anyone who sells an asset runs the risk of being paid in a currency that has no real value and cannot be remitted abroad. There will be growing pressure on incomes as the regime maintains cash values using a currency that is declining in value. By the year end, the main casualty of this situation will be the Civil Service whose real incomes will halve in value or more. In a way this will resolve the fiscal deficit but at the expense of spending power and demand in the domestic markets.

 

Mr. Mugabe remains the pivot around which the future depends – his departure in any form, would instantly change the outlook and the situation in the country. But so long as he holds onto power and his Party simply cannot allow him to retire, he will remain the main obstacle to progress and recovery.

 

Eddie Cross

Harare, 18th December 2016

 
The Threat of Change to Transformation PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Sunday, 11 December 2016 12:24

Eddie Cross - Bulawayo, 10th December 2016 

The real challenge in Zimbabwe today is not to achieve a change of leadership in the form of Robert Mugabe but how to totally transform the entire country. Twice this past week I watched Mugabe for an hour – in the first instance at the State of the Nation address on Tuesday and then on Thursday when he came to the House of Assembly to hear the presentation of the budget for 2017. On the first occasion I sat in the Speakers Gallery as there was no room in the main chamber.

On the second occasion I was sitting on the front bench of the Opposition and was no more than a few metres from the President. He is now a frail old man who has difficulty walking and climbing steps. He is clearly no longer physically capable of doing his job as Head of State. But like an aging matriarch in a herd of Elephants his close associates and family crowd around him and hold him up. The Mugabe era is over, all that remains is when and how.

However since he took power in 1980 he has spent his time and energy on one mission – and it was not the welfare of the people – it was how to take full control of the State and all significant organs of society. He even attempted to take control of the Anglican Church at one time – remember Kunonga? In doing so he carefully followed his role models who were neo Fascist East Germany and Castro’s Cuba.

So effective has this been that today his Party and his acolytes control all aspects of life in this beleaguered country. The private sector is completely dominated by Zanu PF faithful, all State controlled enterprises and institutions have only Zanu PF people at the helm. The process is rigid and disciplined. When they needed a representative of the Urban Councils Association for a Board Member of the national road authority, ZINARA they simply ignored the recommendations of the Association which is dominated by MDC and appointed a Zanu PF Mayor from a small urban center.

If you are in any way associated with the opposition – especially the MDC T, you are completely locked out of any form of national activity and responsibility. Boards, tenders, mining rights, agricultural land and any concessions are all rigidly controlled and directed. Friendships with the opposition are frowned upon and being seen having a cup of coffee with someone like me is routinely reported up the line. At least half the staff in Parliament are security people and everything is watched and reported.

All telephone communications are scanned, especially foreign calls, recorded and analysed, all common meeting spots are watched and conversations recorded with sophisticated directional microphones. All my open e mails such as this one are routinely diverted to security agencies. Periodically I am followed by State Agents in teams. The security establishment is huge – perhaps 17 000 in the CIO on top of thousands of paid informers and watchers and there is a large Military intelligence service and a special unit in the Police aptly called PISI – Hyena. Our Head Office is under 24 hour surveillance – both from over the road and from a neighboring building owned by the Military.

Once I found a listening device in the ceiling above the podium at a meeting of the Party in the Townships. We brought it down and put it on the table so that they could hear what we were saying. When we got to the sensitive stuff we dropped it into a glass of water. After the meeting, while we were cleaning up, two CIO agents arrived and asked if they could have their “machine” back – we laughed at them and said, “talk to our lawyers”.

But it is no laughing matter – Itai Dzamara was picked up by a small team of men in unmarked cars more than a year ago – he vanished. We know he was taken to a center for interrogation established by the Rhodesians at Goromonzi and there he was beaten to death. The Diplomatic Community made this incident a bit of a cause célèbre – but we have recorded 5 800 abductions since 2000, that is one a day on average. This is a regime that practices terror as a deliberate tool of oppression and control. No one is spared – many high ranking figures in Zanu PF have been assassinated when they broke ranks with the regime on key issues.

After the 2008 defeat, Zanu PF ran a campaign to ask rural voters “how did you vote?” If the answer was for the MDC hands and arms were amputated. It was known as the “short arms campaign”. People do not forget that. In a country where perhaps 90 per cent of all young adults are unemployed, the offer of a place in the armed forces looks pretty good. The same applies to youth semi military training in Camps built for this purpose in remote areas. But their experiences are beyond imagination – rape as a reward and a punishment, beatings and indoctrination and a small monthly payment plus a uniform and the right to keep what you can steal from your victims.

Under this regime, persons close to the regime and known as loyalists are allowed to steal on a massive scale – all in plain sight but carefully recorded just in case you ever change your loyalties or your mind. So I sit in Parliament and I can mentally go through the Zanu PF Front bench and list their corruption and theft of State resources. Any attempt to bring anyone in the camp to book is met with vigorous defense and threats. Last week I raised the incident in Avondale where the Vice President came to a Police Station and forced the Police on duty to release “his friends”; two senior staff from ZINARA on charges of misappropriating $1,4 million. I asked how could we ever hope to cure the epidemic of corruption if our so called leaders behaved like this in broad daylight? The VP was sitting in front of me and did not move or make any effort to defend himself.

From this brief description of what life in this Country has become, you will have some appreciation of just what a task faces us when we finally beat Zanu PF so massively that they cannot retain any semblance of power or influence. We will take over a regime where every Ministry, every Agency, every State Corporation, every Department, every Unit of the Armed forces are Zanu PF loyalists who owe their positions and their wealth to the Party. We have controlled every significant urban Council in the Country since 2000 yet we still do not control the senior staff who were employed before we took control.

We are going to have to deal with rampant universal corruption – both petty and national; we are going to have to completely reeducate our senior Civil Servants running into the thousands. We are going to have to review every Board and Committee, every Magistrate and Judge in our Courts of law. We are going to have to rewrite hundreds of acts of legislation and to even amend the National Constitution to establish the rule of law and enforce compliance.

The tragedy of all this is that it is not going to be the intellectuals or the academics, or the business leaders, or the middle class who will have fought for all these years in the pursuit of freedom and democracy. It will have been the poor and disadvantaged who have campaigned fearlessly, worked without reward and taken everything that this terror regime has thrown at them who will have done this. I am so proud to be one of them and to have had the privilege to fight in the trenches with them in the past 16 years.

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What did Newton know? Rioting students determined to defy gravity PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Sunday, 23 October 2016 11:59
http://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/lecturers-fear-worst-as-students-add-african-science-to-demands-wncgpq5fm
Stuart Graham, Johannesburg
October 17 2016, 12:01am, The Times

South African students who have been in violent clashes with the police while campaigning for free tuition say they want to scrap the “Eurocentric” science curriculum in favour of traditional African theories.

Sir Isaac Newton’s law of universal gravitation has come in for particular criticism from the movement known as #Sciencemustfall. In a meeting with the science faculty at the University of Cape Town, Kealeboga Ramaru, a student leader, questioned the cause of lightning and dismissed Sir Isaac’s work as colonial.

“I have a question for all the science people,” she said. “There is a place in KZN [KwaZulu-Natal province] called Umhlab’uyalingana . . . They believe that through the magic — you call it black magic‚ they call it witchcraft — you are able to send lightning to strike someone. Can you explain that scientifically, because it’s something that happens.”

“Decolonising” the sciences would mean doing away with the field entirely and starting all over again “to deal with how we respond to the environment and how we understand it”, she said.

Science lecturers contacted by The Times said that violence at the country’s universities had made work almost impossible. Many are afraid to speak out against the students. Lecturers warned of an exodus of academics to overseas universities or privately owned institutions.

Research funding from the state is in extremely short supply. While none of the academics would comment on the “Sciencemustfall” movement, one referred to a period in the early 2000s when Thabo Mbeki, thepresident at the time, refused to allow an antiretroviral treatment campaign for people with Aids.

Mr Mbeki’s health minister promoted a traditional African method for fighting disease: a concoction of garlic, beetroot and onion. “We lost around 300,000 people, many of them babies and young children, due to the delay in rolling out an Aids treatment programme,” the lecturer said. “Science is not western or African. It’s universal and it’s there to be built on. People need to be very cautious about calls to remove it. The consequences could be devastating.”

At the Wits university in Johannesburg, students agreed that they would like to see their syllabus “Africanised”.

“I once walked off a lecture because it was offensive,” Mfundo Hlangani, an archaeology student, told The Times. “The person who was doing the research didn’t do the proper consultation with the indigenous people.”
Even the university’s architecture needed to be decolonised and Africanised, he said.

Tina Radebe, a biology student, said it would be difficult to decolonise the sciences but the curriculum needed more African voices.

“We know about European scientists. We don’t know exactly about African scientists and what African findings are,” she said. “Decolonisation is very important and it is very possible. However, I am not sure how far it can go in mathematics and the sciences.”

The “fall” movement gained momentum early last year after students at the University of Cape Town protested against a statue of CecilRhodes, the late British prime minister of the Cape colony in the 1890s. The statue, which was frequently doused with human faeces, was eventually removed.

Months after the incident students at the university ripped historic artwork off the walls and burnt it in a bonfire on the streets, saying that the art represented South Africa’s colonial past.
 
Love rats in cheap trousers win prize for weird science PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Sunday, 25 September 2016 12:25

http://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/love-rats-in-cheap-trousers-win-prize-for-weird-science-zfj7rxxdg

Love rats in cheap trousers win prize for weird science

 

Tom Whipple, Science Editor - September 23 2016, 12:01am, The Times

When an Egyptian fertility researcher dressed 75 rats in rodent-sized trousers to see how it affected their sex lives, two things were guaranteed. First, Ahmed Shafik’s paper would have the cutest diagrams ever published in the journal European Urology. Second, he would win an Ig Nobel award. 

His discovery that rats which had previously worn polyester trousers were less sexually successful last night earned him the Ig Nobel Prize in Reproduction.

The annual awards, which reward research that “First makes you laugh, then makes you think”, also honoured a team for their psychology paper “From Junior to Senior Pinocchio: A Cross-Sectional Lifespan Investigation of Deception”. According to their citation, read out at the 26th annual ceremony at Harvard, they were chosen for “asking a thousand liars how often they lie, and for deciding whether to believe those answers”.

Since their launch in 1990, the Ig Nobels have become a fixture of the scientific calendar. Theirgoal is not to find bad research but instead to find good-quality studies that are also amusing. Most scientists consider them to be an honour, although they are not just about prestige — there is a cash prize of a Zimbabwean ten trillion dollar bill.

Past winners include Sir Andre Geim for “magnetic levitation of a frog”. Sir Andre, the co-discoverer of graphene, remains the only person to win both a Nobel and an Ig Nobel Prize.

Notable winners this year included Japanese researchers “for investigating whether things look different when you bend over and view them between yourlegs”, and a team from Britain and New Zealand which won the economics prize for “assessing the perceived personalities of rocks from a sales and marketing perspective”. The literature prize went to Fredrik Sjoberg from Sweden for “his three–volume autobiographical work about the pleasures of collecting flies that are dead, and flies that are not yet dead”.

The winner of the chemistry prize had been widely predicted. It went to Volkswagen for “solving the problem of excessive automobile pollution emissions by automatically electromechanically producing fewer emissions whenever the cars are being tested.”

 
The Precipice PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Sunday, 28 August 2016 14:04

The Precipice

 

Eddie Cross Harare, 27th August 2016

 

Yesterday was a bizarre experience. In the morning I planned to take part in a march that was due to be led by 18 political parties to the Headquarters of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission where a petition on electoral reform was to be handed over.  All previous MDC marches had been peaceful, happy events, virtually no Police presence and not a hint of violence or trouble.

 

Well before I got to the rallying point, I saw people running and vehicles turning around and going back the way they had come. This was two hours before the event was due to start. When I got to about a kilometer from the point we were meant to start from, I saw the first tear gas and water cannons.

 

I saw a group of young people looking down the road and stopped to ask what was happening. They said “we got clearance from the Courts to march and were going to Freedom Square (Zanu PF calls it Robert Mugabe Square) when we were tear gassed by the Police”. They advised me it was dangerous to go any further. I proceeded to the collection point through rock strewn roads, burning tires and saw running battles between young people and the Police. I saw water cannons in action with blue dye in the water and one machine putting out a fire.

 

The main road through the City was totally deserted, the Agricultural Show grounds, normally packed with visitors and opened officially the previous day by the Vice President of Sierra Leone, was also abandoned – not a vehicle in sight, the only people were the Police and the small running groups of protestors. There was drifting clouds of tear gas and smoke everywhere.

 

I left the area and drove to Parliament to wash my face and get the tear gas out of my eyes. Then I tried to go back but was completely blocked by cars fleeing the battles in the CBD. Subsequently the street battles raged over much of the City, business closed down and the streets deserted. The army was deployed and helicopters were put up to monitor the people.

Was there any need for this? Absolutely not! I had participated in four previous marches and had not felt for one instance, any threat or danger. Just cheerful thousands celebrating their right to protest the state of crisis through which we are all living. The violence was instigated by the Police who were totally responsible for what followed. I had previously warned colleagues in Parliament that the tension on the streets was palpable and that everyone needed to be careful when handling any protests.

 

The previous Wednesday, a tiny demonstration by 200 MDC Youth in the CBD had also been attacked by the Police – perhaps more justified because they were defying a decision to turn down their request to demonstrate. But what then happened should have taught the authorities a lesson – the general population joined in and mayhem reined for the next 4 hours eventually shutting down the whole City. Cars were burned, shops looted and a great deal of damage was done.

 

Yesterday, I drove away from the mayhem in the CBD and went to my next meeting which was a lunch with the Centenary Club – now over 120 years old and located in the Royal Harare Golf Club. I ordered a coke and sat on the balcony and watched the golfers and their caddies on the freeways. It must be one of the finest golf courses in the world, certainly one of the most beautiful.

 

The Club was busy, the car park full of expensive cars, the waiters courteous and well trained, the weather perfect. It was a world away from the harsh realities just 4 kilometers away.

 

Zimbabwe always confuses visitors – they stay in our expensive hotels and resorts, enjoy the friendly people and the near complete safety on the streets. See our packed Churches on Sundays and play golf or watch cricket in circumstances that rival the very best.

 

An inch away from all of that is another reality – 5 million people on the edge of starvation and being fed by the international community, 90 per cent unemployment, banks with their doors closed because they have no cash, one third of all children are orphans, the lowest per capita incomes in the world. Corruption that takes a third of all we produce out of our mouths and is then used to feed the appetites of a tiny minority who are wealthy by any standard. A President who drives in a cavalcade that would do Obama proud and flies to Singapore once a month for a medical checkup in one of the most expensive clinics in the world.

 

But it cannot go on for much longer, the disparities are just too great, the suffering of the great majority has gone on for too long and the people’s legendary patience is running out. Zimbabwe is on the edge of a precipice and its own leadership has not got a clue about what to do. Certainly what they did yesterday was not the sensible thing to do in any way.

 

This week the Elders – a grouping that includes Tutu, Mrs Mandela and Annan, called on the SADC leadership, meeting this weekend in Swaziland, to recognise that the crisis in Zimbabwe must be addressed. They noted that a peaceful, dignified, legal and democratic transition is possible, but only if leadership is exercised. Left to our own devices with a paralysed leadership, we can only commit suicide.

 

In Tolstoy’s play “The Cherry Orchard”, a scarecrow in a wheat field plays a key, if symbolic role. In Zimbabwe, the Old Man of the country was taken from his bed, given a shot of something by his doctors and then trundled out in public to show that he was alive. He nearly fell as he climbed out of his car, had to be helped to walk in slippers at the Show Grounds and then sat silent and half asleep while the Vice President of Sierra Leone opened the Show. This is the leadership that is supposed to guide Zimbabwe away from the precipice. It is just not possible and everyone can now see that.

 

Like the scarecrow in Tolstoy’s play, he is not going anywhere and this shameful farce in terms of leadership continues while Zimbabwe burns. Our national debt is now approaching 3 times our GDP; interest on the debt alone is equal to one third of all State revenues. The budget deficit has spiraled out of control. The Civil Service is being paid with virtual money by electronic means but they cannot draw their salaries out of the banks. Even a child can sense that this state of affairs simply cannot go on.

 

South Africa has suddenly woken up as a result of a massive collapse of the trade with Zimbabwe. Tens of thousands of South African industrial jobs are at stake. Suddenly they appreciate that there is a leadership crisis in the country and that the crazies in the G40 and the Presidents bedroom are trying to take power from the scarecrows hands. That would toss us out of the frying pan into the fire.

 

The international Community agrees with the Elders that an orderly rescue mission is possible and could result in a legal, democratic transition. But it is not going to happen by itself. Leadership of a high order is required and quickly, or else this country is going to plunge over the edge of the precipice and will in turn drag the dual worlds represented by our smoking streets and the Harare Golf Clubs down together into the abyss.

 
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