By Professor Ken Mufuka
After ten years of researching the Life and Times of Robert Mugabe, and rewriting it three times, I had almost given up when Cyril Zenda of the Financial Gazette took over and explained to me what I had come to understand but refused to believe.
The actions of Zimbabwe’s leadership, as my white brother Eddie Cross wrote in your previous column, do not make sense at all.
Like Eddie Cross, I had spent all that time assuming that ZANU-PF’s actions could be traced to some rational explanation. I was entirely wrong.
Cross begins by stating a fact which would puzzle any rational being. “The president announces a raft of measures, one of which increases the price of fuel from about $1.35 to $3.31.” Since the Zimbabwe dollar is assumed to be at par with the US dollar, “the new price at R44 per liter is now the most expensive fuel in the world, or three times the domestic price in South Africa.”
After this announcement, President Emerson Mnangagwa flies to Russia.
This revelation explains many stupidities associated with the “new dispensation.” Russia’s president Vladimir Putin is reported to have explained Africa’s problems in these words.
“When an African leader goes on holiday, he travels to Canada or France. When he falls sick, he goes abroad for treatment. He deposits his money in European banks. It is only when he dies that his body is buried in his own country. How on earth can one develop such a continent?”
But Zimbabwean leaders have internalized all the failings of the race. A fundamental contribution by Robert Mugabe to the Zimbabwe’s psyche is the double belief that the world owes them a living and that natural law does not apply to them.
In the same breath that Mnangagwa announced a more than 100 percent rise in fuel price, nobody in his circle thought that fuel prices are fundamental to the price index. Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube said in Azerbhaijan that the rise in fuel prices had nothing to do with the riots. Thirdly, the rise in fuel prices was not accompanied by a look at the supply side of oil companies.
Surely, if they had read chapter 7 of Adam Smith’s book, An Inquiry into the Wealth of Nations they would have been informed that “a monopoly granted either to an individual or a trading company has the same effect as a secret in trade…The monopolists (keep) the market constantly under stocked, by never fully supplying the effectual demand, sell their commodities much above the natural price, raise their emoluments, greatly above the natural rate.” (Para 27/28)
If they were learned enough to know the law of demand and supply, they would addressed the twin problems of price and demand at the same time, by abolishing the crony Sakunda Oil Company monopoly.
Zenda attended a meeting addressed by former Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa in Mutare, November 16, 2016. “Look at me,” the minister said proudly, “You don’t know how humiliated I sometimes get. Everywhere I go; there is nothing people talk to me about, except demanding their money…nothing else. In that situation, it is not yet conducive for me to take any business delegation (outside the country).”
Shortly after this speech, he took a delegation to Lima, Peru where the Zimbabweans attended an oceanic conference and spoke words with power and might. Zimbabweans do not have a sea front.
“Our country owes just about everybody, and we have no capacity to pay. We owe Japan, India, Germany, France, Italy, Sweden, Netherlands, United Kingdom, Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique… it is not a bad thing to owe money. It is a bad thing not to pay.” he said.
Without any sense of shame whatever, and for the fact that they destroyed the lives of white farmers related to the Davos principals, they turn up in Switzerland, announcing their presence with trumpets and instruments.
They stopped paying their debts in 1991.
How does one explain such madness? After years of study, I came to understand that we are literally being led by madmen. Professor Tony Hawkins, in his new book; The Primacy of Regime Survival (page 174) struggled with the same question. Do they not understand economics? For instance, if you raise the price of fuel, the price of everything that is transported on four wheels goes up automatically. Did they not understand that the $3.31 price was more than 100 percent rise?
Hawkins says that it was not that they did not understand, their priority was keeping control of the nation at any price-literally unto death.
Norman Reynolds, chief economist in the Rhodesia government agreed to remain at his post in 1980. He had done research with the United Nations on poverty alleviation and had visited India and Peru where he admired the work of agricultural economist Hernando De Soto.
Despite the success of the idea of “ownership of land” in India and Peru, Reynolds was shown the door. Mugabe asked a direct question. “How will ZANU control the kulaks (rich peasants) if we allow them to develop individual properties?”
Reynolds left for South Africa in disgust. The madness is like a deep well, one cannot fathom its depth. Sometimes truth comes from the mouth of babes.
The idea that natural law does not apply to them sometimes bears laughable results. Chatunga Mugabe, son of the former president of Zimbabwe, noticed the following lack of common sense.
“Common sense tells you that you cannot come out of the latest Merc and then beg for money.” But the madness does not end there. “Reason tells you that you cannot be a globe trotter in the most expensive jet in the world (spending $23 million in two weeks) with a begging bowl. Who will believe you?”
Zimbabwe ministers are the most spoiled in Africa. At any given time they have at their command five of the latest automobile vehicles. The Range Rover and the Mercedes Benz are the vehicles of first choice. White Rhodesian Prime Minister Ian Smith drove his personal car and traveled without a posse.
In her memoirs, former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher had just arrived in Singapore for a Commonwealth conference on scheduled British Airways when she came across Robert Mugabe who was showing off his bright new “air bird.” Mugabe had brought a plane load of cronies for shopping. Alarmed, Thatcher said, “Robert, I hope you have not squandered the GBP15 million my government just loaned you on this trip.”
Thatcher was called an imperialist, a deplorable, and a hater of black sovereignty.
Glob-trotting is part of that madness traceable to the idea of revolutionary solidarity. In the last twelve months, our president has been out of the country 27 times. When all the cronies on each trip are paid their allowances; the smallest being paid $500 each and the vice presidents and senior men $5 000 each, one suspects that a better part of $3 million has been squandered on these junkets.
Once the riots had begun in Harare and Bulawayo, it was a foregone conclusion that any appearance at Davos, Switzerland, would be overshadowed by questions of killings, beatings and deaths emanating from the stay away.
In any case, there is no sense of asking investors to come to Zimbabwe. As soon as they land, government wants to control how they will use their money. If they use the services of a bank, the bank will tell them how much they can withdraw. With electricity and internet interruptions, businesses are cut off from the world.
There is no shortage of money in Zimbabwe. The Diamond Mines were supposed to last for forty years. In Chegutu District alone, there are 40 gold active mines even as we speak. Recently, Mugabe reported that U$900 000 in disposable bills had been stolen from his tribal home by his relatives. Whatever money is available is daily being converted into U$ currency and shipped abroad.
Zimbabwe’s economic malaise is very common in countries ruled by gangsters, such as the Congo, Venezuela and Nicaragua. Governments are poor because anybody with any sense ships his ill begotten wealth to safe havens abroad.
Ken Mufuka writes under the trade name of Letter from America for the Zimbabwe Financial Gazette. He is the author of nine books. They can be accessed under kenmufukabooks.com.