via Will 2014 usher in an Egypt style revolution in Zimbabwe Part 2 January 13, 2014 By Dr Clifford Chitupa Mashiri
Crane Brinton’s Theory of Revolution
Historian Crane Brinton argues that the revolutionary “fever” begins with certain “symptoms.” It is only right and proper that we examine them to aid our analysis of the Zimbabwe situation which began in Part 1.
Brinton outlines the “symptoms” of a revolution as follows: (a) People from all social classes are discontented. (b) People feel restless and held down by unacceptable restrictions in society, religion, the economy or the government. (c) The scholars and thinkers give up on the way their society operates. (d) The government does not respond to the needs of its society. (e) The government is unable to get enough support from any group to save itself. (f) The government cannot organise its finances correctly and is either going bankrupt and/or trying to tax heavily and unjustly (see Forsberg on MSU.edu). Are any of these symptoms being felt in Zimbabwe?
Little cause for celebration
Zimbabweans had little cause to celebrate as Christmas 2013 was marred by cash shortages, power cuts, water shortages, medicines, and shortages Reports say some Harare residents were forced to endure a dry festive season, with no water for more than a week with the situation reportedly worse in Kuwadzana Extension but had slightly improved in the Avenues and Cranborne (See Nyemudzai Kakore, ‘Dry taps sap Christmas cheer,’ The Herald, 30/12/13).According to a media survey (Newsday, 28/12/13) people said in the New Year the situation was likely to worsen if the country did not receive adequate rainfall.
Even Mavambo/Kusile /Dawn leader Dr Simba Makoni has predicted a tough 2014 with the economic situation getting worse by the day. While the skies might offer the Zanu-PF regime some respite, it takes long to grow crops and harvest them, whereas the economy appears in no mood for reconciliation with the former liberation movement which has turned against its own people.
No Xmas cheer at Ziscosteel
Still keeping to the theme of a failure of leadership in Zimbabwe, it was with deep sadness to learn that at least 1000 Ziscosteel workers in Redcliff received paltry salary part payments ranging between US$20 and US$50 each because of the dithering over a US$750 million takeover deal of the steel manufacturing firm by Essar Africa Holdings (See Blessed Mhlanga, ‘No Xmas cheer at Ziscosteel as workers get paid $20,’ Newsday, 31/12/13).
To add insult to injury, major companies that had retrenched staff by November 2013 included reputable platinum miners Zimplats and Unki, Bindura Nickel, Spar supermarkets, Dairiboard, Cairns, Olivine Industries and PG Industries, while in Bulawayo Hunyani Holdings, National Blankets and Merlin were “stuttering” according to the Daily News. Bizarrely, National Railways of Zimbabwe sought ministerial permission to retrench 6 000 workers or 86 percent of its workforce in order to slash its running costs, but Zanu-PF Transport Minister Obert Mpofu said that was not sustainable (The Daily News, ‘Jobs crisis: University graduates turn to vending’, 05/11/13). What makes the situation more desperate are reports that some troubled Bulawayo firms are unlikely to reopen anytime soon due to the prevailing economic situation.
As if that was not enough, Zimbabweans woke up on Wednesday 8 January to yet more bad news that an international consortium of investors nearly suspended a US$750 million investment in New Zimbabwe steel, formerly Ziscosteel, apparently because of persuasive corruption and demands for bribes by Cabinet ministers (see Fungai Kwaramba, Bribes stall $1bn project,’ The Daily News, 08/01/14). At the same time the Zimbabwe’s year-end investments for 2013 declined by US$300million. Contrary to the 2.2 million jobs promised by Zanu-PF, the Zimbabwe Investment Centre (ZIA) approved only 163 projects which created 8,723 jobs in 2013 compared to 172 projects in 2012 which created 9469 jobs.
There is a serious failure of leadership in Zimbabwe as the late international icon Nelson Mandela rightly observed. His words are true today as they were then. But now the country is facing a major dilemma of – what to do with an illegitimate regime, and how to restore hope as the economy disintegrates. Unfortunately, the suggestion of fresh polls ‘to be held soon’ as attributed to Douglas Mwonzora of MDC-T seems unrealistic without an up-to-date and valid hard copy and electronic voters roll, much more so with millions still disenfranchised at home and abroad, despite provisions of the new constitution.
‘There is a liquidity crisis’ – Dzanya
There has been lively debate on the severe liquidity problems affecting Zimbabwean banking sector after a disclosure that close to US$1 billion was funnelled out of the banking sector to offshore accounts in the run-up to the disputed July 31 polls, as political uncertainly gripped the economy. BancABC chief operating officer Francis Dzanya was quoted by the press in November as saying the massive movement of money had worsened the liquidity conditions in the market.“By the end of June $800 million left the country due to elections,” Dzanya said during the banking group’s financial results presentation (see New Zimbabwe, ‘U.S.$1 billion Moved Offshore Ahead of July Polls’, 8 November 2013).
‘There is no liquidity crisis’ – Ndlovu
Other analysts contend that there is no liquidity crisis in Zimbabwe. For instance, Colls Ndlovu who has a professional banking background blames the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe’s capital reserve requirements which he describes as a “death knell to the Zimbabwean banking system.” In Ndlovu’s view, Zimbabwe has the highest capital reserves requirement in Africa. Writing in an opinion piece published in November 2013, Ndlovu said: “The Zimbabwean banks (small as they are) need to put aside the biggest cash reserves with the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe. This money that banks need to deposit with the RBZ is the real devil responsible for the alleged liquidity shortage in Zimbabwe”.
Ndlovu further contends that Zimbabwean banks need to deposit more money with the RBZ than their counterparts in South Africa, Egypt, Angola and Kenya, among others. As a result, a Zimbabwean bank like CBZ or BancABC has to put aside US$100 million with the RBZ increasing from the previous figure of US$12.5 million as of 2012) (see Colls Ndlovu, ‘Liquidity shortage in Zimbabwe: myth or reality,” africanseer.com/news/african-news/general/322159).
Desperate times call for desperate measures
In line with the saying ‘desperate times call for desperate measures’, supposedly ‘loyal’ soldiers attacked a bank ironically owned by Transport Minister Obert Mpofu and allegedly assaulted the bank manager for failing to avail cash meant for their salaries (Zimeye, ‘Angry Soldiers Smash Obert Mpofu’s Bank Building,’ 19 Dec 2013). Reports say a group of uniformed soldiers had been in a bank queue at the start of business and became irritable after the bank officials announced that the bank had run out of cash. It is not clear what has gone wrong at the bank owned by the man who declared: ‘Mugabe is my father’ and makes no apologies for signing off his correspondence with Mugabe as ‘your obedient son’ (See Newsday, ‘Mugabe is my father’, 11/11/11).
So where is the money going?
By September 2013 Zimbabwe had reportedly lost US$12 billion in the last three decades through illegal financial outflows ranging from secret financial deals, tax avoidance and illegal commercial activities, according to a report produced jointly by the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the Washington-based US think tank Global Financial Integrity (the state-owned Sunday Mail 15/09/13). Of late, the parts of the jigsaw puzzle seem to have been falling in place following more revelations.
‘Top govt officials used to launder billions’ – Daily News
Given Zimbabwe’s ‘lofty’ third position in Africa’s corruption league tables beaten by Nigeria and Egypt in 2013, it was not surprising to learn that Robert Mugabe’s top officials including ministers could be receiving millions of dollars in bribes from foreign businesspersons. Of course I don’t agree with the Daily News view that the deals are done behind Mugabe’s back while some of the dubious businessmen are even introduced to him.
According to the paper, Mugabe is usually told that these are clean businessmen who operate above board yet some of them are known international fraudsters and money launderers. I don’t think Mugabe would be all that stupid. Under normal circumstances, heads would roll at the CIO which supposedly vets all VIPs in Zimbabwe. Arguably, the dreaded CIO might have allowed access to their boss knowing the kind of people he is at ease with – ‘money launders and international fraudsters’.
Overseeing a legacy of corruption
Despite returning from his Maputo hideout prior to independence in 1980 as poor as a church-mouse, Robert Mugabe (90) and his family reportedly owned 39 farms as of July 2011(Timeslive, 31/07/11). But how he manages to indulge big time on a salary of US$300 per month remains a mystery (MISA, ‘Biti says Robert Mugabe is earning US$300’, The Zimbabwean, 02/09/09).Although another report says Mugabe earns US$1,733 per month (NewZimbabwe.com, 03/02/09), it remains a obscure how he managed to pay US$12,896 (£9,062) per year in university fees for his daughter’s (Bona) undergraduate degree in Hong Kong and a masters in Singapore.
Even more intriguing is how Mugabe managed to buy a luxurious mansion at the height of Zimbabwe’s economic meltdown allegedly for US$7 million in Hong Kong in the name of Ping Sung Hsieh a Taiwanese-born South African businessman who reportedly later refused to hand over the title deeds after they fell out over a botched US$1million truck for Gushungo Dairy Farm (see Legalbriefs, Issue no: 3424, 06/01/14; and The Sunday Times, Grace Mugabe Hoodwinked,’ 04/09/11).
Power without legitimacy
Damning top-secret intelligence documents leaked to the UK’s Mail on Sunday in July 2013 claimed Mugabe’s regime allegedly paid Nikuv International Projects, an Israeli firm US$13 million (£8.5 million) to manipulate voter registration, counter ‘unfavourable’ results and ‘neutralise’ opposition votes ahead of the disputed July 2013 election. The credibility of the disputed polls in which Mugabe says he got a ‘landslide victory’ has come under intense scrutiny than the regime previously thought.
To make matters worse, Mugabe has attacked western countries as ‘vile’ for questioning his re-election. “For those odd Western countries who happen to hold a different negative view of our electoral process and outcome, there is not much that we can do about them. We dismiss them as the vile ones whose moral turpitude we must mourn,” Mugabe told his supporters after taking oath of office in August (ITV.com, Mugabe attacks ‘vile’ West for questioning re-election, 22 August 2013).
Though Mugabe has power, he has no legitimacy. People are asking why they have not seen him return (through disputed) from a luxurious junket to the Far East on what could be his 20th visit to Singapore in less than 4 years. Officially, he was and still is on his annual leave – while critics suspect he is receiving treatment for prostrate cancer or worse. The highly expensive trip some 8458 kilometres or 5256 miles from Harare could also be a thank you to his loyalists for their role in the disputed July 2013 polls as he prepares for his 90th birthday next month.
Now Mugabe taxing Diaspora remittances
Despite insulting exiled Zimbabweans as British Bottom Cleaners’ (BBC), and contrary to the theme of the 2014 Budget called “Towards an Empowered Society and a Growing Economy”, Mugabe’s regime is actually disempowering the poor by taxing them 5 cents for each and every mobile banking transaction. Instead of growing the economy, the regime is shrinking the economy faster than in wartime.
In 2005 the World Bank’s Zimbabwe country director, Hartwig Schafer warned that Zimbabwe’s economic decline was untoward for a country that is not at war. “I can’t think of a country that has experienced such a decline in peace time,” he said. “The major reasons for (Zimbabwe’s) decline are the breakdown of agricultural productivity and distortion of economic policies,” he said (See Godfrey Marawanyika, ‘Zim economy worse than a country at war’, Zimbabwe Independent, 07/10/05).
2014 budget stifles the economy
You need not look very far for proof that the regime’s budget stifles the economy. For example, on noticing the phenomenal growth of Econet Wireless (Econet) of 76% growth in subscribers for its mobile money transfer service EcoCash which handled more than US$2 billion since August 2011, the Zanu-PF regime which unsuccessfully denied Strive Masiyiwa a mobile phone licence, imposed the 5 cents EcoCashTax per transaction and threatened to punish Econet if it refused banks “unfettered access” to transact on its mobile network (See The Herald, ‘RBZ may sanction Econet,’ 23/12/13). “Just in the past two weeks, Ecosave has propelled Steward Bank to being the largest bank in Zimbabwe in terms of account holders, with over 500,000 new accounts opened,” Chief Executive Douglas Mboweni told the Zimbabwe Independent in November 2013. The US$4billion budget is likely to pass with no meaningful debate as usual.
Compounded by the eco cash tax on remittances, it remains to be seen how Zimbabwe’s Diaspora will respond to the regime’s latest gimmick of what have been dubbed as the ‘olive branch’ bonds to raise money on the cheap. While some regime sympathisers may invest, those forced out of the country are set to reject them especially as they may not trust it is not a Zanu-PF fund raising campaign. Meanwhile, civil servants have been warned against striking.
Tyrannical human master
Though the foregoing conditions matter, George Orwell’s allegorical fable, “Animal Farm,” still makes sense by saying: “While some revolutions successfully rid themselves of their tyrannical human master, they fail to create a world in which all animals were equal.’ Though revolutions may appear unavoidable in certain situations, so are the mistakes too.
Africa’s unstable regimes and unfinished revolutions remain a big distraction while other countries prosper. After watching Al-jazeera’s “Orphans of the Sahara” and news footage of events in the Central African Republic where some of the nationals are camping on top of and under broken down aeroplanes at M’poko (Bangui) airport, Mugabe’s budget of US$200 million is bigger than that of three ministries, one realises what Nelson Mandela meant by a failure of leadership.
The next instalment Part 3 will be the last one.
Clifford holds a PhD in International Relations. He is also an author, political analyst, former diplomat and a fulltime PhD Social Sciences candidate at London South Bank University. His doctoral research is on forced migration. Zimanalysis2009@gmail.com.