|The ZIMBABWE Situation||Our
thoughts and prayers are with Zimbabwe |
- may peace, truth and justice prevail.
The economic facts of life have been spelled out very clearly to President Robert Mugabe and the Zimbabwe government. The country, they have been told by local, African and foreign specialists, is on the brink of meltdown; of a descent into long-term chaos.
Tobacco, once the forex mainstay of the country, reached the auction floors here this year. But instead of earnings in the region of $600m the sale of the sorely depleted crop netted just $150m.
By the end of next month, the planting season begins. But most commercial farmers are off the land.
About a third of them have fled Zimbabwe, some to farm in neighbouring Mozambique, others further afield. More than half the original farmers have, however, remained, for the most part staying in temporary accommodation in the cities, in the hope of gaining some redress or being allowed to return to their farms.
They constitute a resource that the government has, for the most part, realised it must deploy if the agricultural sector is to get back on its feet. This sector includes not just the forex earners such as tobacco and horticulture, but also food production.
Much of the livestock has been slaughtered or died as a result of drought, but some herds are still intact. Grazing is also relatively plentiful in most areas.
A high proportion of the farms seized for resettlement are also now deserted. Apart from a few commercial farms seized by members of the governing elite, most of the confiscated property was parcelled out to unemployed urban dwellers who had no experience of farming.
They were also given no training, no inputs or any other assistance. Most have now left the land.
Even politically, it should be possible for the government to re-introduce the originally evicted farmers who remain. This could be done on the grounds that they have proved their merit; that those with a OEcolonialist mentality¹ have left.
Agriculture is important, but Zimbabwe does, in the long term, have a platinum ‹ or pgm ‹ secured economy (<I>Africa Analysis, passim</I>). As we have noted, mining has been little affected by the turmoil of the past year and more.
Platinum group metals seem likely to continue to be in demand and Zimbabwe contains the second largest known deposits in the world after South Africa. Given the dominance of the southern African region in this marketplace and the fact that South Africa¹s Anglo American and Impala Platinum control most production on both sides of the border, the price is unlikely to fall.
The World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the US have also agreed that aid will be forthcoming if a political settlement can be reached. This, together with debt roll-overs and perhaps some forgiveness will be desperately needed, especially if the industrial sector is to be revived.
Zimbabwe has also lost some 60% of all its registered professionals, ranging from doctors and nurses to engineers and accountants.
Most appear to have established themselves in other countries and are unlikely to return.
However, if action can be taken in the agricultural sector by August and with the income from pgm production and, to a much lesser extent, gold, the country could begin a steady turn-round.
Publication: Africa Analysis