Tim Mutsekwa: Zimbabwe must prepare for hell in 2020
By Tim Mutsekwa
Greetings one again to you all. l hope I find you well and in rude health as we conclude another week. Striking medics in Zimbabwe have agreed to go back to work after billionaire Strive Masiyiwa offered a $6.25 million fellowship to help ease the doctors’ welfare in the country.
Junior doctors in the country’s public hospitals downed tools in September to protest poor wages which had been worsened by the Zimbabwe’s economic crisis.
Two months later, the Senior Hospital Doctors Association (SHDA) joined their colleagues, saying they could no longer cope with the poor working conditions and the dire state of health facilities in the country. Masiyiwa through his charity late last year offered to pay doctors a “monthly subsistence allowance” of roughly $300.
Doctors are also offered transport to and from work The Higherlife Foundation charity announced Tuesday that it had reopened the offer, which more than 300 doctors had signed up for before it closed in December.
But Dr. Masimba Ndoro, vice president of the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association, warned that “nothing much has changed” in the conditions at public hospitals that include the lack of basic items such as bandages and gloves.
Relatives of patients are still expected to buy such items and, in some instances, bring buckets of water as Zimbabwe’s once-envied health care system reflects the southern African nation’s general collapse.
Zimbabwe’s Supreme Court has ruled that all local debts incurred before 22 February 2019 must be settled in the local currency, at a rate of one Zimbabwe dollar to one US dollar.
Chief Justice Luke Malaba said the repayments should not involve any conversions, upholding a lower court’s ruling on the reintroduction of Zimbabwean dollars in 2019.
Chief Justice Luke Malaba made the landmark ruling in an appeal case involving Zambezi Gas Zimbabwe (Pvt) Limited against mining services provider N.R. Barber (Pvt) Ltd and the Sheriff of Zimbabwe.
Zambezi Gas had appealed against a High Court judgment which instructed the gas company to pay a May 2018 debt using the interbank rate and not 1:1 rate which was effected in February 2019.
Businesses are set to lose millions of dollars as a result of this voodoo ruling, adding more torment to the already impoverished economy. In the same week the Supreme Court delivered its landmark judgement, retail outlet Bhadella Wholesalers announced it will be closing down after being in operation for nearly 90 years, citing the adverse economic environment.
When government indicates that it is open for business and that we are an investment destination, proponents which are key to an investor are the property rights and protection by the judiciary.
When one of the arms of the state makes such decisions, they can kiss investment goodbye.
Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions president Peter Mutasa described the judgement as theft as well as the “final nail on the coffin of the Zimbabwean economy.”
“We are going to see companies folding, especially those that had foreign lines of credit but supplying other local entities. These still have to pay back the loans in foreign currency but are forced to accept useless Zimbabwean dollars from their debtors. As a result, we must expect job losses,” Mutasa pointed out.
While this ruling pleases domestic borrowers, it is bad news for those who have external debts. Pensions will also be seriously eroded as a result of the judgement.
It is of principal importance that we ‘name and shame’ Zimbabwe’s problems in chief, and hence forth pinpoint the perpetrator, orchestrator, and conductor in chief of the struggle of the Zimbabwean people; it is the party popularly known as, Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front (Zanu PF). On a very basic level, Zimbabwe is vice-gripped by a never-ending economic depression, monumental levels of widespread poverty, negative economic growth, zero access to clean water and sanitation.
Chief among our difficulties is degenerative corruption, extra-ordinary repression and violence. We have very high levels of unemployment, liquidity problems, collapsing infrastructure, morbid industry and commerce, as well as a really poor healthcare, let alone limited access to it.
The electricity crisis sounds like just one of our smallest snags. Our government is broke to the point that it can’t afford to pay its own workforce, the biggest in the country by the way. Zimbabwe has graduate vendors, destitute academics and touting intellectuals. I could go on and on.
Since international capital is a coward, no one is prepared to risk their money in a tiny overrated economy like Zimbabwe whose leaders are, in fact, giant pillaging marauders whose appetite for corruption and lawlessness makes that of the piranha look like child’s play.
When capable chief executives join struggling companies, they infuse a dose of confidence that in some cases cause the firm’s share price to rise. For example, when Steve Jobs rejoined Apple in 1997, the company was worth $3 billion (just over half of Zimbabwe’s GDP of $5.2 billion the same year), but when he died in 2011, the company’s value has soared to a world-record $624 billion.
Apple’s stock price rose more than 9,000% since Steve Jobs returned in 1997. In the meantime, Zimbabwe’s GDP had grown by only 100% to just over $17.85 billion in 2017.
My point here is: chief executives and their capabilities matter in growing or killing companies the same way they matter in growing economies. To use an African example, since Uhuru Kenyatta took over as Kenyan President in 2013, the Kenyan economy has added about $20 billion between 2013 and now to its $74.94 billion GDP of 2020. That is an addition of the size of the entire Zimbabwean economy in a space of two years.
When Hu Jintao took over as paramount leader of China in 2003, the economy grew almost 800% from just $1.2 trillion in 2003 to 8.5 trillion in 2012 when he passed on the button to Xi Jinping. National chief executives therefore matter in changing the course of a country for better or for worse.
Since 2013, Zimbabwe has seen a complete reversal of its growth trajectory and shows strong signs of deflation. To see how damaging the effect of the negative multiplier to the Zimbabwean economy will be, here is an illustration. The agricultural and manufacturing sectors in Zimbabwe are in a near-comatose state. Several banks have collapsed and, with them employment, deposits and other positive spin-offs to the economy.
Since consumers spend less on the high street (or on vendors as is the case across Zimbabwe towns), businesses experience losses or falls in profitability. With low demand for their goods or services, it makes no economic sense to maintain those workers who are now idling around in a quiet shop. Therefore, this leads us to more retrenchments.
The only thing that Zimbabweans and non-Zimbabweans agree on is that the country has potential, but that potential will never be realized with that level of ineptitude in the highest office in the land. Mnangagwa seems very small minded and blinded that he can hardly see far from his nose. He also seems oblivious to the suffering around him.
As the chief executive of Zimbabwe, Mnangagwa’s ineptitude in matters economic is now the stuff of legend. There is no bailout coming from China. The Chinese are not idiots.
They learnt decades ago from Deng that ‘no matter if it is a white cat or a black cat; as long as it can catch mice, it is a good cat.’ But then the Zimbabwean cat will not catch mice for them, so it’s not a good cat. They (the Chinese) also learnt from their mistake in South Sudan which is costing them a lot in protecting their investments in that country.
No one trusts Mnangagwa. He flip-flops on policies. Today he may be for foreign investors and tomorrow he is chasing them away for political expediency, because he thinks a president owns the country. He surrounds himself with an equally incompetent coterie of bootlickers who have no record of performance. He could not get a bailout from South Africa, he won’t get one from China.
He won’t get any from Africa either. So buckle up! With Mnangagwa at the helm, brace for a worse 2020.
Hope that Mnangagwa will fight corruption
Thieves are rarely gracious enough to return their loot. The logic is simple – if they had ‘grace’ (no pun intended), they would not have stolen in the first place.
Zimbabwe has become a mini-version of Nigeria with a generous mix of both grandiose corruption at high levels and petty bribery at the lower levels of society. The police shamelessly set up road blocks at 10 km intervals across town and highways, engaging in mass scale shakedowns.
Ruling party scoundrels go around town like warlords in Somalia, taking over bus termini, hijacking city council buildings and collecting rent and protection fees, as well as collecting ‘rentals’ from desperate street vendors.
But there is a catch. If you want to be corrupt in Zimbabwe, and get away with it, just mention that whatever you are doing has the blessing of the godfather.
Mnangagwa is the Al “Scarface” Capone of Zimbabwe. He is the Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán of our troubled southern African country, albeit a better one because he is a sitting president and will never have trouble from the law because he is the law.
Mnangagwa has been involved in sleazy stuff within and outside Zimbabwe (in the DRC, Equatorial Guinea, etc), and has allowed his subordinates just as much slack.
So if you think that Emmerson Mnangagwa will fight corruption, you are no better than someone riding a dead horse, strategizing about how to lower the standards so that more dead horses can also be included. The best you can do is dismount this dead horse and think about how to clean Zimbabwe up and drive the Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán of Zimbabwe out of office.
A second -hand economy with archaic infrastructure
In addition to a trade deficit, culminating in a current account deficit (importing more than you export), Zimbabwe’s economy is a costly economy with painful inefficiencies and unbelievable red tape. Businesses and individuals for example, run mostly on second- hand cars imported mostly from Japan.
This means that the economy has to grapple with further imports of car parts to keep them running. The roads are in scary state of disrepair, causing further damage to the second- hand cars.
Companies are operating on archaic technology, plant and equipment, which makes their products uncompetitive. There is also an explosion of the trade of second -hand clothes from abroad, killing domestic production.
Power plants, all of them built by the colonial regime are also now so old that they frequently break down. During its decades in power, Zanu-PF did not build a single power plant, leaving the country in a perpetual power deficit.
This deficit will get worse for the country as more and more power consumers fail to pay their bills, affecting the country’s ability to import power from neighbours, creating another domino effect that affects the whole economy.
It’s common in Harare to see youths across town with push carts full of bananas. Poor, corrupt, politically wobbly, agrarian and largely dependent on the export of a few resources, Zimbabwe now generally meets most people’s definition of a banana republic.
American author William Porter who coined the term ‘banana republic’ used the phrase to depict a country with a huge but impoverished working class, presided upon by a small ruling elite made up of political, business and military class.
The ruling class is interconnected with one influencing, feeding and operating the other, but more importantly, controlling the primary sector the economy is dependent upon. Zimbabwe, among other countries, is one of the countries that evolved from colonialism and chose a rotten path towards becoming a banana republic.
Hope of improvement in our lifetime
A better future life is possible for the Zimbabwean generation born in the last ten years – they have a fair chance of seeing a good Zimbabwe in their lifetime. But for anybody born after 1980 and before the year 2005, a good lifestyle for the generality of the population is a mirage.
The majority of the university graduates in Zimbabwe today will not get employment in their prime years, which means that they miss out on gaining critical formal skills necessary for a productive economy. Some will cross borders to go and labor in foreign lands.
If you want to see why a month can easily turn into a year and a year into decades while your life is wasting away with your chances to change the world fading away into the horizon, here is the evidence. A few people in Zanu PF saw that Mugabe was a risk to the nation more than a decade ago.
The late army general Vitalis Zvinavashe through proxies approached Morgan Tsvangirai to arrange what would have been Zimbabwe’s first government of national unity way back in 2002.
The late army general, according to reports at the time, was working with Emmerson Mnangagwa on this plan because they realized that Robert Mugabe “is the main stumbling block”. They said Mugabe must step down before we can find solutions to our economic decline and the hunger, among many other problems,” Tsvangirai said at the time.
Mugabe did stand down [albeit through a coup] but Mnangagwa is still there eighteen years later. He is still a stumbling block and will remain one. True to Zvinavashe’s view, it is now Mnangagwa who has to step down before Zimbabwe can find solutions to its economic quagmire.
Hunger has increased. More people have since died from archaic diseases since 2018. More children have dropped out of school, a whole generation is ruined and generally everybody in Zimbabwe is now more impoverished than back then.
While we are at it, Emmerson Mnangagwa has declared his interest, covertly and overtly, to run for President of Zimbabwe in 2023. So before you think your woes will soon be over, hang on and buckle your seatbelt. For that reason, international capital will skirt Zimbabwe and go to other countries with a better value proposition, because international capital is a coward.
Increased emigration and xenophobia risk
Zimbabwe’s neighbouring countries need to brace for a further influx of economic refugees running away from Zimbabwe’s catastrophic economic failure. In the same vein the region needs to prepare for and work to prevent further xenophobia.
In the same vein, Zimbabweans scattered in many countries across the world, mainly in the UK and South Africa, must prepare themselves to feed and take care of their folks back home.
As things stand, Zimbabwe is a lost nation with a lost agenda with hardships eating the national conscience away. Never missing an opportunity to miss an opportunity, all Zimbabweans squandered an opportunity to change course.
The country’s collective intellectual capital is frittered away, with some of its graduates labouring as waiters and farm workers in neighbouring countries.
As long as Emmerson Mnangagwa [and Zanu-PF] is where he is, there is little if any hope for the present generation in Zimbabwe. Hoping for the best when reality shows otherwise is tantamount to riding a dead horse, and the best strategy when you are riding a dead horse is to dismount. How you dismount is up to you.
It is not the West that is the enemy, or sanctions, the opposition, gays, or the absence of Mbuya Nehanda’s bones. Zanu PF is the enemy of the people, and whatever effect external white capital interests have had on the nation, all that stands like a pea next to a mountain when compared to the determination of the revolution to kill us off, and our dreams too (all this while they live lavish lifestyles in the Brooke!)
Zanu PF, the ‘once upon a time’ embodiment of African renaissance, has become the paragon of heartbreak, circus, and monumental pettiness. The personification of corruption, racism, homophobia, greed, grand theft and tsotsi-ocracy. 40 years after independence, Zimbabwe regrettably threatens to become the greatest tragedy since Weimar Germany.
The nation has traversed the line from breadbasket, to basket case, from model state to banana republic. The euphoria that gripped millions on Independence Day in 1980 has been replaced by frantic incessant despair.
As things stand, ‘The Revolution’ is lifeless, betrayed, trampled, over and done. The revolution lies crumbled, destroyed, and deathly at the soles of our feet, right next to our dying bodies, dead by its hand.
Tim Mutsekwa (Political Science and International Relations [University of Greenwich], Secretary for Party Business & Investments [MDC UK & Ireland], Twitter : @tsumekwa