another joke from the Continent

If you thought the election of Libya’s life President, Muamar Gaddafi, as president of the African Union was a joke wait till you hear who was elected chairman of COMESA, a regional trading block that comprises most of the nations on the east coast of Africa. Yes, Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe’s strongman who ran his country’s economy aground has been elected chairman of COMESA! And as expected, this has generated some protest in the African blogosphere.

How do these guys pull off such stunts with a straight face?

some good news for Zimbabwe

The BBC reports that the World Bank has decided to resume aid to Zimbabwe – the Bank has not lent the cash-strapped African country any money since 2000. Sad though is the fact that most of the money will probably go to clearance of Zim’s arrears to the WB and the African Development Bank (Zimbabwe owes $1 b). But the WB director, Toga Gayewea McIntosh, who is in charge of the group of African countries that include Zimbabwe promised that more grants will follow soon.

According to the Finance Ministry, Zimbabwe needs $8.3 billion for full recovery to be achieved any time soon after years of ruinous economic policies under the strongman Robert Mugabe.

can zimbabwe bounce back?

Morgan Tsvangirai (a man who many believe ought to be Zimbabwe’s president) was sworn in Thursday as Zimbabwe’s Prime Minister. This marks the beginning of a compromise power sharing arrangement in Zimbabwe which forces the aging Robert Mugabe, 85 to share power with Tsvangirai’s MDC. Tendayi Biti, another MDC stalwart, will be Finance Minister.

This raises the question of whether Zimbabwe can bounce back  some time soon. Millions have fled the country. Millions depend on food aid. 3000 have died of cholera and many more remain at risk and the economy has virtually collapsed, with 9 in 10 people out of employment. I am a proud owner of a 100 billion Zimbabwe note. In short, a lot needs to be done and MDC will have it mostly uphill for a long time to come. But will they succeed? If the recent developments in Kenya are any indicators, Zimababweans should be warned that things will get worse before they get better. The same people who while in opposition were screaming about corruption have been coopted into the same shady deals they once fought against (the maize, oil and tourism scandals are testament to this). And the lack of a credible opposition has given the government some immunity against censure in parliament. Zimbabwe may find itself in the same position, unless they actively avoid it.

May be Tsvangirai and his MDC will do things differently. I wish them well.

total madness

Robert Mugabe and his men have been preparing for his 85th birthday. And it is going to be a big celebration. Reading this left me speechless. If the story is true (I still find it hard to believe) then a whole lot of people in the Zimbabwean government need to have their heads examined, after which they should be sent to the gallows. It is utterly unconscionable that anyone should be dreaming of such a grand party for an autocratic leader who has run his country’s economy aground. The only thing this monster deserves for his 85th birthday is a one way ticket to Pluto. He is a shame to humanity.

Also, shame on all those people who have donated money to these efforts. With millions of Zimbabweans living on food aid they should know better than to waste their money on Mugabe’s birthday party. I hope someone finds out who they are and makes public their names and the amounts they donated.

mugabe and tsvangirai failing Zimbabwe

There comes a time when convention and ideology needs to be brushed aside for the sake of the well being of a nation. Now is such a time for Zimbabwe, once Southern Africa’s bread basket but now a basket case in its own right. The truth be said, Robert Mugabe’s land policies had some merit. It is inconceivable in any democracy that a tiny percentage of the population (most of foreign origin whose grandparents and parents stole land from native Zimbabweans) should own huge tracts of land while the vast majority subsist on tiny parcels. This system was simply unsustainable and was bound to explode with or without uncle Rob (next watch South Africa under Zuma…..). That said, it is indisputable that Mugabe bungled the entire process. Forceful evictions, cronyism and outright thuggery made the whole process seem like it was being run by a bunch of kids.

So now the water has been spilled. As they say where I come from, maji yakimwagika hayazoleki (once water has been spilled you can’t put it back into a container). The Zimbabwean economy is paying dearly for Rob’s misadventures. The political process has also been a major casualty of the land mess. And millions of Zimbabweans have been forced to flee their own country. A few questionable elections have been held. Many have been jailed for political reasons.

With all the above in mind, I can’t help but wonder why the hell Robert Mugabe and Robert Tsvangirai are continuing in their dillying and dallying instead of reaching an agreement to start fixing the country. Perhaps Tsvangirai does not want to cede any ground on principle. But this is no time for principles or unncessary fights. People – with only one life to live like all of us – are dying daily because of the intransigence of these two men and their aides. Someone needs to lock them up in a room without food or bathroom break until they come up with a plan to save Zimbabwe. Meanwhile, South Africa continues to be a big disappointment in this affair. They are the last country one would expect to tolerate arbitrary tyranny – regardless of the color of the skin of the tyran.

these not so serious leaders of zimbabwe

It has been ages since Zimbabwe held elections but until now Robert Mugabe (having stolen the elections) and his nemesis Morgan Tsvangirai (the supposed winner) are yet to reach a deal to form a government. This deadlock is not about policy. It is not about how these two men will stear Zimbabwe out of the mess it has found itself in. It has nothing to do with increasing school enrolment, creating jobs or improving post-natal care for rural women. The squabbling that continues to deny the people of Zimbabwe a government is over cabinet posts – posts that are to be filled with men who are as alienated from the struggles of the rural folk as that infamous French queen was. It is a tragedy. It is a total travesty.

The regional leaders are still calling for more summits. Opportunities to spend tax payers money while discussing how to divide that money among the same corrupt men who seem to have completely lost direction and the interest to serve their people.

Do these guys know the inflation rate in their country? Do these guys see how Zimbabweans are suffering in camps in South Africa or in the other countries in Southern Africa?

It is a shame. A big shame. Who cares about who holds what posts? As a the former president of Kenya would say: will this in any way increase the number of utensils in any ordinary Zimbabwean’s house? Whatever happened to policy?

zimbabwean leaders, stop acting childish

Am I the only one tired of the antics of Robert Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai? This struggle over which ministries to give to which party is turning into child play. How hard can it be to agree on which posts to take? This is not rocket science. And what gives these lunatics of leaders the idea that they can continue to mortgage their citizens’ lives as they leisurely engage in inane political fights??

Zimbabweans are hurting – no one needs a reminder about this. And I just read an article about the collapsing school system. This is particularly sad because education holds the key to the future. If Zimbabwean children lag behind they are going to have a hard time catching up and competing in the increasingly globalized labor market – if and when their economy recovers and sanity returns to their country.

Quite frankly, I am simply sick and tired of the circus that is the negotiations. Mugabe and Tsvangirai should be locked in a room without food or bathroom break until they come up with a deal that will work for Zimbabweans and stop the madness that has characterised this once promising African country.

How much longer will the world sit back and watch?

As usual, the news coming out of Zimbabwe are not good. Images of armed youth chasing and beating opposition supporters and reports of whole villages being overrun by government operatives for the simple crime of voting for the opposition are in the least very sickening. Robert Mugabe, the ancient independence hero of the republic of Zimbabwe has vowed to stay in power and told his opponents that only God can remove him from power. Perhaps it is time Zims remembered the Biblical note that God works through the hands of men and do the necessary. The old man should be removed from office and exiled to some island in the indian ocean, or better still he should be exiled to Britain – the land that he has grown to hate and blame for all the ills affecting his people.

The problem in Zimbabwean has again exposed the dysfunction that is the continent of Africa. The de facto leader of the continent, one Thabo Mbeki of South Africa is on record as to having said that there is nothing wrong with Zim and that the international media should tone down on the negative reporting. Mr. Mbeki must be mad. The other presidents on the continent couldn’t care less. A few of them have voiced concern but without offering any concrete solutions. For now they seem to be bent on protecting one of their own. A real dirty shame.

The wider international community has also bought into the tactic of all barks and no bite. It has been left to the BBC, CNN and the spokespeople of the state department in the US and foreign ministry in the UK to condemn the actions of ZANU-PF and their supporters in ZIm.

I think it is time civil society groups across Africa held demonstrations to force their leaders to step in and talk old Rob out of power. The man is 84 and has been in power since 1980. In this period Zim has descended from being a food exporter to a country where millions depend on international food aid. It is time for him to go. And it is a real dirty shame that Africa and the rest of the world continues to sit back and watch as old Rob continues to sink his country deeper into the ground.

how much longer can Zimbabweans tolerate Mugabe?

A day after Zimbabwe’s March election there were already rumors that Robert Mugabe had lost and was trying to negotiate a graceful exit from power. But Rob was to have none of this. He ordered the electoral commission not to announce the results of the presidential election even though the opposition’s tallies confirmed their claim to victory. Meanwhile parliamentary results confirmed that Rob’s party, the ZANU-PF had lost its majority in Parliament to the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). In desperation, Rob ordered for a recount in several constituencies but even this did not overturn the original results.

With Mugabe having lost the election and his apparent resolve to stay in power come what may (evidenced by his failed attempt to purchase weapons from China) it remains to be seen just how much longer the people of Zimbabwe can put up with this crazy old man before all hell breaks loose and people pour into the streets. It has to happen at some point. Political Science theory says that revolutions happen just when things begin to get better and Rob may have initiated this process by allowing the MDC to win the elections. He could have simply rigged the vote to give himself a clear win – both for the presidency and parliament. But by allowing the MDC to win parliament and the presidency (although a run-off is in the offing) he has shown his people that he is indeed beatable and demystified himself.

The writing is on the wall for Rob and his cronies. But he still has support from a significant segment of the Zimbabwean population and thus any kind of uprising against him will almost inevitably be met with stiff opposition from his supporters. He may be a thug to most non-Zimbabweans but to his country people he is an independence hero who sacrificed a lot for his country. Because of this there is an increasing risk of conflict within the country.

As the international community continues to watch from a distance, (with South African president Mbeki makeing silly statements like this) Zimbabwe keeps moving even closer to the tipping point. I believe total collapse can be avoided by having Rob step down (forcefully if necessary) before it is too late. The alternative is to wait and send in peace keepers after the fact.

zimbabwe’s kenya-esque election

It all sounds too familiar. Elections are held, but the government fears that the wrong people might be winning. The election officials know the results but are not releasing them for some mysterious reason. All things then break loose, with disastrous consequences.

The credibility of the election process is tarnished and everyone is left guessing who really won the election.

I am not saying that this is how Zimbabwe will pan out but I am worried at how eerily familiar the situation there seems.

Right now, with 52 constituencies counted, the government has half the seats and the opposition the other half. Tsvangirai’s party has 25 and Mutambara’s 1. A couple of Mugabe’s ministers have lost their parliamentary seats. Other results are being delayed for some mysterious reason even as Tsvangirai’s party, the MDC, continues to claim that it has won 60% of the votes cast to Mugabe’s 30%. The MDC also claims that it has won 99 seats in parliament against ZANU-PF’s 96 while 15 went to other opposition groups.

The real results have been delayed by the electoral commission …….. no prizes for guessing why. The weird part about this is that even after uncle Bob showed the world what he is capable of over the last two decades, I was still kind of optimistic that he was going to hold a relatively acceptable election (please prove me right Mugabe, please…)

To future would be African “riggers of elections” : if you have to rig, please be tactful. Do it without delaying results simply because this creates suspicion. Do it without having voter turnout being higher than voter registration. And do it in a way that half the government ministers do not lose their parliamentary seats because if they do and you still win, even the dumbest among us will smell a rat.

zimbabwe opposition a let down

You would imagine that with a president like one Robert Mugabe the Zimabwean opposition would do anything in their capacity to have him out of power. But you would be wrong. This power hungry lot (yes, this is what I think of them) has refused to come up with a coalition against Mugabe. Their leaders, Tsvangirai and Mutambara, have confirmed that talks between their rival MDC factions have “broken down irretrievably” – according to the BBC.

A divided MDC almost certainly guarantees the aging Mugabe a win in the March polls. Meanwhile, ordinary Zimbabweans continue to live their lives under the yoke of the wayward economic practices that the world has come to know the Mugabe administration for. Mugabe’s bad economics has also been served with a touch of human rights abuses and lack of respect for the rule of law. It is really shocking to imagine how he manages to get re-elected.

Tsvangirai and Mutambara owe it to their countrymen and women to form a united front if they really want to unseat Mugabe. They have no business running separate campaigns in March because this will guarantee the presidency to Mugabe. Knowing African leaders (yes, I think after all that has happened on the continent from Senegal to Somalia and Chad to South Africa I can make this generalization, but I digress) I don’t think these two power hungry men will let their egos and quest for personal aggrandizement take the back seat and let the plight of their countrymen and women take the front seat.

Sadly, this is yet another case of African leaders lacking true leadership. It also paints a bad picture of both Tsvangirai and Mutambara and makes one doubt whether these two really want to end the bad governance that we’ve come to associate with Bob or whether they just want to perpetuate the same old practices of rent-seeking, cronyism and over-the-roof inflations rates – but may be with less human rights abuses and the jailing of opposition supporters. Even this is questionable, after seeing what Kenya has turned into following the “bad” years of Moi rule. African leaders just have a way of making you look back and shock yourself by wishing you had the likes of Moi in power.

If Tsvangirai and Mutambara care about their international reputation thy ought to unite. Otherwise many reasonable people will question their vision for Zimbabwe and indeed their commitment to ousting Mugabe and bettering the lives of millions of hungry, sick and illiterate Zimbabweans.