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Dennis Jones is a Jamaican-born international economist, who has lived most of the time in the UK and USA, and latterly in Guinea, west Africa. He moved back to the Caribbean in 2007. This blog contains his observations on life on this small eastern Caribbean island, as well as views on life and issues on a broader landscape, especially the Caribbean and Africa.

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Sunday, April 13, 2008

Zimbabwe. Things are normal!

I have been struggling for a couple of weeks over how to express my feelings about the current non-outcome from Zimbabwe's presidential elections on March 29. Phrases such as "vote fiasco" have already been used (see latest CNN report). I tried to explain to a good and learned friend how Africans in general were not going to see the decline of a leader and just accept that as we would in the Caribbean. He told me I was full of ****! I also knew that African political leaders would not come out and condemn any part of the process. I did not speak to my friend again on this because I knew what he would say.

So, no surprise that once again, political leaders in southern Africa have convened a summit meeting to discuss Zimbabwe--this time the electoral stalemate. The Southern African Development Community (which could be shortened to SAD Community), a regional bloc of 14 nations, also implicitly acknowledged reports that Zimbabwe's governing party had sponsored violent attacks on opposition supporters since the election on March 29 by urging the government to ensure that a runoff, if needed, will be held “in a secure environment.” Their conclusion today offered what has been called "a weak declaration that appealed for a quick release of the results and the conclusion that the country is not in crisis". By the way, Zimbabwe's president did not attend the summit, which is widely seen as a major snub for the African leaders. South Africa's president, Thabo Mbeki, played the matter as one would expect, having had meetings with President Mugabe in Harare on his way to Zambia (see report): "There is no crisis in Zimbabwe," he told reporters.

The delay in releasing the election results and the process of recounting votes before results have been declared by Zimbabwe's Election Commissionhave raised the spectre of fraud in the minds of many commentators (see New York Times report). The results for legislative elections held on the same day as the presidential vote, were posted, and Mr. Mugabe’s party, ZANU-PF, lost its majority in Parliament. Over the past week the governing party has demanded recounts involving an increasing number of seats. A state-owned newspaper, The Sunday Mail, reported today that votes for 23 seats (out of 210) would be recounted, raising the possibility that the opposition’s victory could be reversed, Reuters reported. Zimbabwean state television reported Saturday it had unearthed a secret document detailing plans by the opposition Movement for Democratic Change to rig the elections. Isn't it amazing what powers the opposition can muster after being out of power for some 40 years?

Concluding that Zimbabwe is "not in crisis" when the country has hyperinflation, with prices reported to be rising over 100,000 percent a year, and rising, is incredible. Just figure out what that means a day, even every hour. By the hour, it would exceed what several other countries call very high inflation over a year, and they mean between 15-40 over 12 months. (Read about Iceland's plight with its current "high inflation".) In Zimbabwe, essentials like bread and soap have all but disappeared from many shops, according to news reports. Estimates indicate that 80 percent of the population live below the US$ 35 a month poverty line. Some 80 percent of the population is unemployed. The government has banned political rallies, while the opposition called for a general strike. If all of that does not make a crisis in your eyes then your view of normal must be very strange.

It's part of the business of diplomacy to dance around real issues (read the transcript of a press conference with African Finance Ministers yesterday, during the IMF/World Bank Spring Meetings in Washington, DC). Just look at an extract from what Botswana's Finance Minister said:

First, the influx of Zimbabweans over the border into his country "has been so significant that I think it has not been possible even on the Zimbabwean side for them to issue passports to everybody once they come to Botswana. So, many of these people who have come without their travel documents, and this means that this has caused quite a strain in our facilities, and every so often, our immigration officers take them back. And then, after leaving the border, sometimes by the time they arrived, some had already crossed the other side. So, we've been having that immediate problem, because it means if they need health facilities in Botswana, they must get it and many other things, but the situation as you aware is changing."

Then he mentions the election. "The impasse is simply that the results of the presidential election have not yet been announced. There seems to be some technical problems, technical or otherwise, by the Commission, because it really is the Commission that ought to announce, but they are failing to announce. The international community is waiting, including the Zimbabweans themselves. But I am one of the optimists. I think that Zimbabweans are getting close to solving their problems, and hopefully this coming week will bring miracles, and the announcement will come and they will work with them on that."

I don't know why you need "miracles" to solve "technical problems". I am not going to excuse Botswana's Finance Minister because he is supposed to focus on technical and financial rather than political issues.

Look again at the picture above from the SAD Community summit. Arms folded. Lips sealed. Remind you of the "three wise monkeys principle" to "see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil"? If you don't know the phrase it is commonly used to describe someone who doesn't want to be involved in a situation, or someone deliberately ignoring the immorality of an act they have seen or in which they are involved. Some argue that the phrase came from the teaching of Buddhism that if we do not hear, see or speak of evil, we ourselves shall be spared all evil. Oh, such wishful thinking!

1 comment:

scotchcart said...

Any chance of forwarding your post to your Ambassador at the UN with your concern and goodwill?

There is a Security Council meeting tomorrow, Wednesday 16 April 2008.

Significantly, South Africa is chairing this meeting. People are doing everything they can that is peaceful and lawful to keep Zimbabwe on the agenda even if it is the informal agenda.

The news out of Zimbabwe in the last few hours is that there will be a general strike tomorrow. Though entirely peaceful this is dangerous for Zimbabweans.

Good sites are the blogs on the Sokwanele and Comrade Fatso (poet).

Thank you for your support.