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Life Goes on in Zimbabwe


By Eddie Cross

My wife and I went to a dinner party the other night - nothing unusual about that except it was 300 kilometers from home and we had to contend with a river in flood.

To get there we had to go quite far south of the usual turnoff to the farm, which meant that we could use a low level bridge to cross the river. The normal road was closed because of the water level.

To get to the farm we needed good directions and the farmer told me that his turn off was about 12 kilometers after a certain junction and just "after two big muddy puddles".

Anyway we got lost in thick Mopani veld and with the help of another local farmer eventually found the turn off and arrived - a bit late, but still in time for a very pleasant evening. The key was those "two muddy puddles"!

Another young couple from two farms away drove through the short cut and then waded the river. She changed at the house and he sat through the meal in damp trousers.

It was a superb evening - we all sat in the garden, light came from a clear moon in a star-studded sky and we did not even need jerseys.

You need to know that life goes on in Zimbabwe - sure we have inflation at record levels, we have two million internally displaced people (IDP - a UN's euphemism for homeless internal refugees), we have very little food and hundreds of thousands of people are dying.

This morning, I heard of one estimate that ten per cent of IDP have died since Murambatsvina - that is 200 000 people, most from malnutrition and exposure.

There is growing anger in the country; I hear it on the street, at dinner parties and in business.

Anger that the economic collapse is now threatening everyone. Anger that the authorities, despite the fact that they have been in power for 25 years seem not to even understand what is happening - let alone find solutions.

Anger that food aid is still being managed so as to make the population subservient to the regime. Anger that the UN is such a hopeless organisation - unable even to find the courage to call a halt to the genocide we see every day.

Anger that the world seems to take it for granted that they can do little about tin pot regimes like ours that have defied globally accepted norms of governance and all human rights for years.

I saw an analysis today that put Zimbabwe at the bottom of a table listing the degree of freedom enjoyed by its population.

This past week bread has hit nearly Z$100 000 a loaf, the US dollar is trading at 220 000 to one and official inflation approaches 800 per cent --27 per cent in February alone.

The real rate of inflation must be double this but the impact is severe whatever figure you adopt. Gideon Gono and Herbert Murewa went off on a futile trip to Washington to talk to the IMF --I suspect they hardly got past the doorman.

They were told politely that despite paying Z$209 million (Z$46 trillion) to the Fund (equal to 42 per cent of our 2006 budget), they would continueto suspend our voting rights and access to the Fund - as I said two weeks ago, they will not even reopen their office in Harare.

However what I found particularly disgraceful was that they suggested that if we paid the balance of our arrears (nearly another US$100 million) they might reconsider. Reconsider what?

There is absolutely no chance that we will ever get access to IMF resources (or any other significant assistance for that matter) until we get our democracy back on its feet and start behaving like human beings.

There was no mention of the suffering caused here by these payments --the forced shortages of all basics. No mention of asthmatics unable to get their medical supplies, no mention of the hardship of students who must now pay up to Z$100 million a semester for a college education.

No mention of hospitals without food and disinfectant. No mention of the tens of thousands who must cross the Limpopo every week now to seek refuge in South Africa.

The cry on our streets and in the villages is show us the way, give us directions, what do we have to do to get rid of this collection of goons who have so totally messed up our country? What is the road map back to sanity?

The Mbeki, Zanu, Mutambara road map would have us accept that all we have to do is ditch Mugabe, allow Zanu PF to form a national unity government and then institute the required reforms to get the international community to let us get on with our lives and start rebuilding the country.

The problem with that sort of road map is that it leaves the thieves in charge of the cash box. It puts the criminals in charge of the legal system and the law courts; it does nothing to restore our fundamental rights and freedoms. It simply whitewashes the tombstones and allows Mbeki et al to bury the evidence.

The alternative is the MDC road map - force Zanu PF to concede they have failed and must come back to the negotiating table where they lost their way. Ask at an all stakeholders' conference representing all sectors of Zimbabwean society what we must do to get back to the right road and how to get there.

We are lost and must find our way back to the road and the only way to do that is to agree on a new constitution and a transitional mechanism to get us there in the next 12 months or so.

Then, once we get to our destination we can hold elections under international supervision and whoever wins that election can form a new government and start the country on the road to recovery and eventual prosperity.

It's clean, legal, democratic and free and fair. I know who would win that election and so do you, and so do Zanu PF and Mbeki. That is why the invitation to this particular dinner party must be accompanied by some considerable persuasion.

I think we are about ready for just that eventuality and if you could see the armed police on street corners you would know that those currently in charge are as nervous as you can be and still be standing and not sitting on the nearest loo!

They know the Army is restive, the Police dissatisfied and the people angry. What they do not know is how to get out of the mess they are in and it is time we told them and told them in clear unequivocal terms that their day is done.

The arms cache charges against the MDC are so obviously fabricated that they are laughable. What is no laughing matter is what they are doing to the lives of those they target in their desperation to find their own way out of the Mopani they are in.

Editor's note: Zanu-PF is Zimbabwe's ruling party since independent from Britain

MDC is the country's main opposition party.

The writer lives in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe and blogs at Zimpundit.

The Daily Grind of Life in Zimbabwe

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