Thursday, May 15, 2008

(HERALD) Zim ‘crisis’ removed from reality

Zim ‘crisis’ removed from reality
By Timothy Kalyegira

AS I focus these days on the dark deception at the international level, we turn today to the most extreme example: Zimbabwe. I have followed world media reports extensively but there is something I have not once heard asked or discussed: Why is Zimbabwe, once one of Africa’s most promising countries, where it is today? Or more pointedly, why is Zimbabwe reported and portrayed to be where it is today?

Let us start off by readily agreeing that President Robert Mugabe is an authoritarian leader, a tendency for which he is, needless to say, not alone in Africa. Having said that, everything else simply does not add up. Let us look at various inflation rates. Iraq for 2007: 64,80 percent; Afghanistan for 2007: 16,30 percent, according to the CIA World Factbook. The DR Congo for 2006: 14,4 percent; another African country in chaos, Burundi for 2006: 11 percent.

Then, a Voice of America radio broadcast on April 1, 2008 said: "In Somalia, continuing insecurity, a surge in food and fuel prices, and uncontrolled printing of money have created runaway inflation that is threatening the lives of millions already suffering from 18 years of war and lawlessness." What, then, is Somalia’s runaway rate of inflation after "18 years of war and lawlessness"? "Over 100 percent", according to the website

We have taken a look at a cross-section of some of the world’s most unstable countries: Iraq, Somalia, Afghanistan, Burundi, the DR Congo and the figures for inflation we see are 14, 11, 64, 100 percent and so forth. Let us turn now to the world record holder, Zimbabwe. As of March 2008, the country’s inflation rate stood at 165 000 percent.

Zimbabwe has not had a single military coup since independence in 1980. No civil war, no war with any of its neighbours, no major drought or famine, no earthquake, no volcanic eruption and no floods caused by extreme rainfall, no locust invasion.

Furthermore, Zimbabwe has been ruled by a Zanu-PF Government from 1980-2008, by the same Prime Minister and later President Mugabe, pursuing the same economic policies, with the same management or mismanagement style.

Before the Mugabe Government started uprooting the white farmers in 2000, this Government kept inflation at 5 percent, 8 percent (or 11 percent in difficult years.) How, then, does a country with all the same factors and leaders from 1980 to 2000 suddenly (because the white commercial farmers have been uprooted) see inflation soar to world record levels in a space of just six years starting in 2000? And how is it that a stable Zimbabwe has an inflation rate 1 500 times higher than Somalia, a country without a government since 1991? Does any of this make sense?

Away from abstract figures, the evidence before our ordinary eyes is even more puzzling. If you have watched news video footage on BBC TV, CNN, and other Western TV networks, without exception, you will no doubt have noticed that the streets of the capital Harare are far cleaner and better maintained than those in Kampala, even during the week that Uganda hosted the Commonwealth summit last November.

Have you seen any beggars on Harare’s streets? Have you taken the time to notice clean and well-painted Government buildings in Harare?

During the recent presidential campaign rallies, you might have noticed that both the supporters of President Mugabe and the opposition were generally well-dressed, looked and acted cheerful. Nobody wore rags or went about barefooted.

In 2003 and 2007, South Africa’s subscription TV channel M-Net sponsored the Big Brother Africa reality television show. In both competitions, Zimbabwe had representatives resident in Harare, Tapuwa Mhere in 2003 and Bertha Zakeyo in 2007. You saw them confident, relaxed girls, not thin beggarly girls who had not had proper meals in years.

More importantly, for M-Net to still have an office in Zimbabwe where viewing is by paid-up subscription, presupposes that there are enough Zimbabweans with money to afford the luxury of pay TV, despite the 100 000+ inflation rate.

With that kind of inflation, you don’t have the extra money for luxuries like DSTV.

So how come, for all this obvious evidence, nobody has asked the simple question: is this Zimbabwe story real or an orchestrated series of events by the British and American governments and media to punish Mugabe for humiliating the white settlers in Zimbabwe? It leads us to ask the auxillary question: might all these supposedly impressive economic growth, dropping HIV infection, and inflation rates in Uganda under President Yoweri Museveni have, after all, been falsified, as have all the election results of 1996, 2001 and 2006?

Why do we consistently read about impressive growth and achievement figures under Museveni’s rule, and yet most of us feel and know that we are well worse off today than 22 years ago?

l Timothy Kalyegira is a columnist with the Daily Monitor paper of Uganda. He can be contacted on timothy_kalyegira AT This article is reproduced courtesy of African Executive.

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At 11:34 PM , Blogger MrK said...

How does any country in the world end up with 100,000% inflation?

According to the Central Statistics Office:

" The top three items that contributed most to year-on-year and month-on-month inflation were domestic power: electricity, gas and other fuels," Moffat Nyoni, acting CSO director, told reporters. "

From the same article, it is interesting to note that this 'economist' would like to link inflation with mass demonstration (which I presume would be intended to overthrow the ZANU-PF government):

"Government thinks it is in full control but if things grind to a halt we could find ourselves in a different situation altogether ... these small things could trigger the masses into action," Daniel Ndlela, a Harare-based economist said."

This article, posted anonymously on a website called '' blames the government budget defecit, without stating what the cause of the deficit is, or quantifying the deficit:

" Analysts point to Zimbabwe's sizeable budget deficit, estimated to reach 20 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in the current financial year, as the main cause of the country's hyper-inflation. "Under these conditions, it is not possible not to have high inflation," says Eddie Cross, the economic adviser of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). "

Eddy Cross is of course a member of the MDC, and as such likely to blame the government for everything and anything. The MDC's credibility in these issues is lower than Louisiana alligator urine. The other contributor to the article is of course the usual suspect, John Robertson, who is usually quoted anonymously on the BBC as 'an independent economist'. Robertson works for the 'Economist Intelligence Unit' and is an enemy of ZANU-PF.

Having said all that, it is not clear how the Zimbabwean government's budget deficit specifically would lead to hyperinflation after 2005, but not in the period from 1980 to 2005. As a whole, the government is not doing much different recently, so a budget deficit in itself cannot explain world record hyperinflation. Nor does it explain why Zimbabwe's inflation is so much higher than that of that of the country of Somalia. You'd expect better from an economist.

On the other hand, late 2001, the US Senate passed the 'Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act of 2001' or ZDERA (did Zimbabwe's economy recover, I wonder, or was the act intended to 'recover' the country's economy for the forces of colonialism).

The act was proposed by long time opponent of African independence Bill Frist, with Jesse Helms being one of the co-sponsors.

In essence, it bans the government of Zimbabwe from borrowing money internationally. I wonder why no one writing on inflation in Zimbabwe ever mentions it, because the absence of foreign currency would have a direct effect on prices, especially of imported goods like fuel and other forms of energy.

For true African independence, we should see the following:

1) energy independence

There should be greater use of technology such as solar energy, and national generation of hydropower; vehicles should run on solar energy and biofuels.

2) food independence

This means land is in the hand of the people; that they have full support from government in all of parts of the farming process; there is security of land ownership or tenure for local African farmers; there should be less reliance on artificial fertilizers and more on green manuring, on-farm manufacture of fertilizer like worm castings and manure from lifestock;

3) national sovereignty

Land or natural assets cannot be owned by foreigners to any significant degree. If the presence of these foreigners is a continuous threat to national security, through the constant threat of foreign invasion, they shouldn't be present at all. There are many countries in the world that limit foreign ownership of strategic resources, and African countries should be no exception, no matter how much anyone believes in globalisation. No government should ever be threatened again with foreign invasion, because it chooses to rectify the racist and white supremacist land distribution pattern of the colonial or apartheid eras.

4) Total Economic Independence

To achieve total economic selfsufficiency, countries should strive to produce 90% or more of all consumer goods nationally. All food, energy and basic goods should be locally produced, with surpluses exported to neighboring countries first.

5) Wealth Accumulation

Production and manufacturing using locally mined or grown raw materials will keep most of the cost of the production of finished goods inside the country. National leadership should start thinking of exporting raw materials as exporting jobs and profits. It should become unacceptable for any elected official to even dare justify exporting raw materials.


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