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For those of you who have not lived in Africa, an African storm can be a fearsome thing. For Africans, you either love or hate it.

By Eddie Cross


The day will be hot and breathless and about mid afternoon you will hear a low rumble in the distance. In a short while the wind comes up and the black clouds tower into the skies above us and then they roll over us in majestic order.

Suddenly lighting splits the sky and the clouds seem to be cut in half as the air rushes into the space created by the heat of "gods fire".

 

Then comes the rain falling in vast wet sheets across the open veld. In seconds the gullies are full and flowing and in minutes the streams are rising out of their banks and when the storm passes we are left with the roar of nearby rivers as they rush down to the lowlands.

Some fear and hate the storms - my wife's mother had to retreat into an enclosed space until given the all clear by the family.

 

I just love the spectacle - not just because it is so magnificent and grand, but because of the fact that it is the only way to bring life to the parched soil and to carry us through another long dry season.

Each of the seasons of Africa has their own special character. Of them all I appreciate the late summer and early winter - it is still green and lush, the rivers are running and yet it is cool and dry, often with zero humidity.

 

The early mornings are just superb, the early light from the rising sun, cool and crisp atmosphere and the joy of the birdsong. The late evenings, iridescent greens and fantastic skies with the glow of the setting sun.

 

The early night sky, clear as crystal with millions of stars and a translucent moon, the night sounds, a roar of crickets, the rasping grunts of frogs, the soft cry of a nightjar.

As I write this, a storm approaches - I am nervous for the computer and my modem, but the news of the day compels me to write again of the storm over Zimbabwe.


The President has held his birthday celebrations - no one else to do it for him so he throws his own bash. No such thing as concern for those in his country who are homeless and hungry, or of the massive impact of his prolific spending on the majority. Just a desire to have a good time at our expense and to wallow in the praises of his entourage.

At a cost of Z$10 thousand million dollars he has held a birthday party in Mutare - a City close to the epicenter of the earthquake that hit us on Friday morning.

 

He arrived; I am told, in a 150-vehicle convoy with his own ambulance, a contingent of the Presidential guard and dozens of Ministers (we have 58 at last count) all of whom would have been accommodated in local hotels and lodges at even more expense.

At the rally held by local Zanu PF "chefs" thousands are gathered - many are simply told to attend (school children) others are forced to attend by roaming Police and Army patrols. They arrived at 09.00 hrs and sat in the sun until 12.00 when the "great man" arrived to speak. He spoke for an hour and then without even a free cool drink, they are told to go home while the elite go off to a fabulous spread.

Then the shocking news from an IMF press conference in Washington that our estimated budget deficit in 2005 was 60 per cent (yes, I said SIXTY per cent) of our GDP. In 2004 it was a "moderate 24 per cent).

 

No wonder our currency is spiraling out of control and prices are rising so fast we cannot keep track any more. Remember it is regarded by most economists and Central Bankers that the deficit should be held below 3 per cent to be sustainable and to ensure growth with low inflation. In fact our Minister of Finance had claimed that the deficit was three per cent - he just lied.

Since the end of last month our currency has slipped from 100 000 to 1 against the greenback to 200 000 to 1.

 

Cooking oils have doubled in price and bread is now also reaching that level. Eggs are Z$30 000 each and milk is anything from Z$50 000 to Z$75 000 a litre. Given the shortages of maize meal - the basic staple food, this has also leapt in price reaching Z$60 000 a kilo in many markets. Liquid fuels have risen from Z$95 000 a litre to Z$200 000 a litre.

Far from facing up to the crisis in the country, Parliament met for two days and then adjourned until mid April - not a mention of the crisis and no discussion of any solutions. In fact I think they have given up on finding a solution while Mugabe is in power and his henchmen rule the roost.

 

It's not that they do not know what to do - they do. It's just that to take those steps would run the risk, which they dare not take, of letting the tiger loose. They are quite simply terrified of the consequences of their own misgovernance.

So Zanu PF finds itself locked into a crisis situation of it's own making and to which they have no solutions, no exit. They are in a blind alley with the wall at the end of the road staring them in the face.

 

I found it interesting that they did not bring forward expected constitutional changes designed to extend the term of office of the President to 2010 and to allow Zanu PF to appoint Mugabe's successor.

 

This legislation was expected and has been drafted. I think it points to the fact that Mugabe does not want to step down at all - he wants to finish his term and he wants it to run to 2010. He wants four more years!

There is simply no way that that is going to happen. I recall Clinton's famous line "It is the economy, stupid". With the Reserve Bank running the printing presses flat out we can expect inflation - already at 50 per cent a month - to continue it's upwards climb.

 

My own graph of the numbers shows us already on a near vertical part of the graph. We are close to the point where industry and commerce will simply not be able to continue. It cannot be business as usual any more.

So I predict a storm is coming - a real African storm, violent, spectacular and short and that this storm will wash away the debris we have accumulated in the past 25 years and signal a new beginning for Zimbabwe.

 

We simply cannot continue like this and there is only one way out of the crisis. If you do not like or fear storms like this then it is time to get your closet ready. You might need it for a while, but when you come out hopefully you will find the country washed clean and the dry veld coming alive again.

 

Eddie Cross lives in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. He blogs at zimpundit

 

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Zimbabwe: The African Storm

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