The ZIMBABWE Situation Our thoughts and prayers are with Zimbabwe
- may peace, truth and justice prevail.

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Zimbabwean Man Convicted For Mugabe Insult - BBC

HARARE -(Dow Jones)- A Zimbabwe businessman who said President Robert Mugabe had "printed useless money" has been convicted of denigrating the president, the BBC reports on its Web site Wednesday.

Jason Gambitzs told his staff he couldn't give them a Christmas party or bonuses because of the president's policies, state-run media report.

Gambitzs pleaded guilty to contravening the two-year-old law which outlaws insulting the president.

The 72-year-old faces up to a year in jail when sentenced.

"Your Mugabe is chasing away tourists who are supposed to bring in money," Mr Gambitzs allegedly told his workers Dec. 9, the Herald newspaper reports.

"So where do you think I will get the cash from? ...Why can't we remove him from power?" he reportedly asked.

Gambitzs is the third Zimbabwean in two months to be charged under the law.

One was arrested for labelling Mr Mugabe a dictator who ruled by the sword and another was jailed for calling him thick-headed.

Mugabe has been in power since independence from the U.K. in 1980.

The country is suffering a major economic crisis, with inflation now officially standing at 149% and unemployment at about 80%.

Millions of once self-reliant people are now surviving on food aid, blamed by critics on the government's land reform program, which seized commercial farms from white farmers for redistribution to black Zimbabweans.

Mugabe said the seizures were necessary to redress the balance of ownership.

BBC News Web site:

  Dow Jones Newswires
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Enough is Enough



We have a fundamental right to freedom of expression!



Fourth day of Christmas: The Scandal of Mugabe’s prisons

Sokwanele Reporter: 29 December 2004

 An opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party activist who spent over a month in solitary confinement in one of Robert Mugabe's hell hole prisons before the bogus charges against him were dropped and he was released without explanation or apology, reflects on the scandalous state of the country's prisons:


"Even the police cells throughout the country where those who are charged with crimes are gathered prior to court hearings, are filthy and overcrowded.  Overflowing broken toilets where toilet paper is unheard-of, are the order of the day.  Due to the unhygienic conditions diarrhoea is ever present and prisoners have to use their hands to clean themselves.  Showers and washing are nonexistent in these facilities.  Generally there are two meals a day made up of a communal bowl of sadza (cooked maize meal) and these same dirty hands and fingers are the instruments for eating.  Needless to say, this continues the cycle of the upset stomach.  There is no tea or sugar and there are no vegetables or meat to add to this diet.  Prisoners held in these conditions lose weight rapidly.  Often, remand prisoners are left to themselves, forgotten and at times they can be left without food altogether for a day at a time or more.


"In the prisons, these conditions are mirrored although of late, the quantities and the number of meals have been reduced due to lack of funds.  Here you will find prisoners sentenced for long-term incarceration very lucky to receive a cup of tea in the morning for breakfast.  Prisoners queue twice a day to collect their meals dished up from filthy dirty plastic containers.  There are no cleaning materials and the vessels are lined with putrified scum.  Prisoners on remand who make the fortnightly journey to the nearest courthouse, often return to find their meals left on dirty plastic plates, smothered in flies.  There are times when they are not so lucky and return to face the prospect of up to another 24 hours without any food at all.  (It must be remembered that even the remand prisoners are denied food from their relatives and friends despite the fact that the government department responsible does not have enough funds to provide the basic nutritional needs of inmates).


"In some prisons rice is served as an option but it is not a wise choice as the portion is pitiful and makes up about one handful twice a day.  To this is added the course stalks of a bitter type of cabbage (Kale) in the morning.  Later in the day one might be fortunate enough to receive a spoonful of boiled beans.  This last meal of the day can be served as early as three o'clock in the afternoon with nothing further until a cup of tea the next morning for breakfast.


"A lot of Zimbabwe's prisons were built as self-sustaining units with well-equipped prison farms which supplied the basic food needs of the whole prison population.  Piggeries, dairies, chickens and the beef herd used to provide prisoners with a healthy and varied diet.  Today, it is only the prison staff who benefit from what remains of the produce from these now dilapidated and badly managed farms.  Sadly, the prisoners don't even pick up the scraps.  Disease is rife and diet related illnesses such as scurvy are evident everywhere.  Every day, there are deaths caused by ailments brought on by nutrition deficiency.  The immune system suffers as a consequence and, with virtually no medical care available, there are literally hundreds of preventable deaths a year in our prisons.


"Yet while prisoners starve and die, the political elite get fatter and richer by the day as they plunder the diminishing resources of a once happy and prosperous Zimbabwe".




To mark the International Human Rights Day on December 10, the Law Society of Zimbabwe (ZSZ) visited a number of prisons across the country.  The lawyers examined prison conditions at Khami, Bulawayo, Mutare and Chikurubi prisons.  They reported that there is insufficient food in the prisons and the living conditions are inhumane.   Their findings support the view that conditions in the prisons are a scandal.  It is little wonder that they are increasingly seen as death traps for inmates.  Unconfirmed reports say at least five prisoners die because of disease and starvation every month at just one of the country’s prison – Harare Remand Prison, which is one of Zimbabwe’s most overcrowded prisons.



Day 5: 30th December 2004
Tomorrow’s article
describes the Zimbabwean government’s efforts to become the sole controller and provider of food supplies in Zimbabwe. This has inevitably led to extensive corruption. 

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Real courage in Zimbabwe
By David Thomas, Evening Standard
11 February 2003

People talk a lot of rubbish about courage. Politicians boast of making tough decisions, when all they've ever done is follow the latest focusgroup. Actresses witter away about the bravery required to get their kit off in public. I'll tell you what courage is.

Courage is walking on to a cricket pitch in Zimbabwe, wearing a black armband to protest the death of democracy.

Courage is issuing a statement that lets the whole world know that Zimbabweans are crying out for release from the inhumanity and insanity of the Robert Mugabe regime.

Courage is doing those things when you know that Mugabe's opponents usually end up tortured, imprisoned or killed.

Courage is what Andy Flower and Henry Olonga displayed yesterday.

Their gesture of resistance was sport's equivalent to the student standing before the tanks at Tiananmen Square. It was as if a German athlete had walked into Berlin's Olympic Stadium, in 1936, wearing a yellow star in solidarity with the Jews.

And it let the whole world know that the issue of playing cricket in Zimbabwe had nothing whatever to do with player security.

The ICC, cricket's governing body, that verminous nest of unprincipled toadies and crawlers, laid on a press conference to assure us that the death threats received by England should not be taken seriously. South Africa's second-most senior policeman promised that the players were in no danger.

The England team were evidently not impressed. Maybe they were wrong.

I don't think there's ever been a question of Mugabe allowing any potential danger within miles of the match. If there's one thing dictators are good at, it's security. But I'm not the one who got the death threat. If I were going to spend hours on a cricket pitch, as a sitting duck for a possible sniper, I may feel very differently.

I'm not going to knock a man for refusing to walk in front of a gun. Still I say again, security was never the issue.

The issue is the degree to which decent human beings are prepared to do business with filth. It's the willingness of sportsmen to celebrate their health, their strength and their freedom in a land where millions are starving, innocent families are butchered and government opponents are tried for treason.

That's why, back in August last year - long before the current fuss exploded - I was saying that the England cricket team should never set foot in Zimbabwe.

People can throw up their hands and say it's not the business of sport to make moral and political judgements. They can claim that other ICC countries have governments that are anti-democratic themselves.

But there is no other cricketing nation where property is seized on government orders, and its owners raped and killed.

No other nation uses mass starvation as a political tool.

Now Flower and Olonga have told the world that the people of Zimbabwe are begging for release from their oppression.

Since their heroic gesture, I've changed my mind.

I think England should go to Zimbabwe. The world's cricketers should stand alongside these brave men, wearing black armbands, just as they did.

Zimbabwe's cricketers may be governed by a madman, their sport may be run by grovelling cowards, but they need to be reassured: they are not alone.

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Overseas students cheating British education system: Think tank

Press Trust of India

London, December 29, 2004|15:54 IST

Thousands of people who enter Britain as students, particularly from Jamaica and Zimbabwe, are being granted extensions to stay — far more than the number of official college places, a think-tank has claimed.
The analysis of government statistics by Migrationwatch, an independent think-tank, said that the figures make it more likely that people who have visited the UK for other reasons are trying to stay as students and may be using bogus colleges.
In the case of Jamaica, figures for 2001-2003 show that 1,690 students were admitted to the UK, but 27,525 others were given permission to extend their stays.
Over the same period, 4,270 Zimbabwean students were allowed entry, but 25,420 other "students" were granted extensions of stays.
"Even if some of the education is not in formal educational establishments, how can you explain 27,000 extensions? Jamaica and Zimbabwe are largely English-speaking, so these cannot all be English-language courses," said Sir Andrew Green, chairman of Migrationwatch.
The think-tank's analysis is drawn from Home Office immigration statistics that show 190,215 extensions were granted last year — an increase in student extensions of 48 per cent.
A spokesperson of the Home Office said Migrationwatch was highlighting "an old story".
The government was aware of abuse of the overseas student system and was introducing tighter visa restrictions and stricter limitations on the time people could spend in the UK on courses.
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The Herald

Policy implementation to consolidate gains realised this year

By Leonard Makombe
THE year 2005 will see the consolidation of the gains realised this year through the implementation of the Macro-Economic Policy Framework (2005-2006).

Some of the gains which have been realised during the last 12 months include impressive strides by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe in reducing the rate of inflation from 622 percent in January to 149,3 percent last month, stimulating economic growth and rationalising the financial sector which was fuelling the country*s economic problems last year.

By and large, the year 2004 marked a turning point in the country*s fortunes as the cumulative decline in real gross domestic product (GDP) of 28,4 percent between 1999 and 2003 was arrested.

According to preliminary estimates, a 2,5 percent decline in real GDP would be registered in 2004 from an 8,5 percent decline last year.

As the Acting Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Dr Herbert Murerwa, put it when he presented the 2005 national Budget, projections for the coming year indicate that with sustained implementation of the recovery measures embarked upon, the economy is on course for positive growth of between 3,5 percent and 5 percent.

GDP is one of the main indices used to measure a country*s economic development and it sends signals --- both positive and negative --- to international investors.

During the year a battery of measures were put in place to turn around the economy. The most notable of these were a tight monetary policy and a new policy framework with a two-year implementation period.

While the monetary policy announced in December 2003 has been largely credited with some of the gains recorded so far, it must also be mentioned that the fiscal discipline on the part of the central Government has had far-reaching, and positive results.

Under the Macro-Economic Policy Framework (2005-2006) a review of the National Economic Recovery Programme (NERP) has been made.

Sectoral objectives such as agriculture development, industrialisation, infrastructure development, investment promotion, social service delivery and poverty reduction underpin the new policy framework.

These sectoral objectives are consistent with the realisation of Zimbabwe*s Millennium Development Goals targeted at reducing poverty, improving health and education delivery by 2015.

Among the challenges faced by monetary authorities and Government in the coming year will include maintaining the momentum which has been generated so far.

An inflation target of 200 percent by December 2004 was initially set in the maiden monetary policy statement. It stood at 149,3 percent as at November 30. And indications are that based on current performance, the rate will continue to slow down until the desired single-digit levels in 2007.

As such, analysts said there was need to maintain the momentum and at the same time make sure that other strategies, consistent with the spirit of economic recovery, are implemented.

"Such strategies would include increasing the volume and quality of exports which are produced in the country. "

It has always been mentioned that our exports, including those from other African countries, do not earn much on the international market because they do not have value addition.

"This is one area we need to improve on as a nation if we are to increase our foreign currency receipts and speed up the economic recovery," noted one analyst.

He added that precious metals such as platinum would do wonders for the country if proposed changes by RBZ are implemented in February.

The central bank has promised to take over the marketing and regulation role of platinum, effective next year, in a move aimed at making sure that the white metal makes its rightful contribution to the economy.

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The Herald

ZABG members named

By Paul Nyakazeya
FIVE banks will initially be accommodated in the $2 trillion Zimbabwe Allied Banking Group (ZABG) which begins operations next week.

These are Trust Bank, Time Bank, Royal Bank, Barbican Bank and Intermarket.

CFX Bank, which is only two weeks into curatorship, has been ruled out for the time being.

ZABG, which was born out of the Troubled Financial Institutions Act passed by Parliament recently, gives the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) the power to intervene in the affairs of banking institutions that faced financial problems and were subsequently placed under curatorship.

Speaking with the Herald Business yesterday, economist Dr Eric Bloch, who also sits on the RBZ advisory board, said five banks would make up ZABG when it starts operating next month.

"The banks that are to be accommodated in the Zimbabwe Allied Banking Group are Trust Bank, Time Bank, Royal Bank, Barbican Bank and Intermarket. I do not see CFX coming in at this stage because the curator (Mr Fungai Kuipa) would not have completed his investigations in time to be part of the first lot.

"The bank (CFX) might join later in the year when procedures have been followed," said Dr Bloch when asked which banks would make up ZABG.

The aim of creating ZABG is to resolve the problems of solvency and liquidity being experienced by the banking sector. The banking group will amalgamate selected troubled banks into a single unit, which will be issued with a banking licence.

The Herald Business understands RBZ Governor Dr Gideon Gono would soon appoint Mr Stephen Gwasira, who is the central bank*s head of supervision and surveillance, to head ZABG.

Mr Gwasira will come in as Chief Operating Officer of the allied banking group while Mr Dominic Magwada, managing director of Trust Bank, would be appointed head of the retail division. Mr Andy Hodges will head the treasury division, while NDH founder Mr Never Mhlanga is expected to head the asset management arm.

Mr Sydney Mabika, former head of personnel consultants Lorimark would be brought in as chief of human resources.

In October, Dr Gono pledged to have the bank operating what he said would be "full-scale banking operations on 1 January, 2005". He also ordered curators to turn in their final reports by November 30.

Dr Gono has set 2007 as the year when Government would be expected to ease out of ZABG to make way for private investors.

In this endeavour, Government and the Reserve Bank hope to create a platform for indigenous investors to acquire shares in sound banking institutions, protect creditors and depositors and resolve liquidity and solvency challenges in distressed institutions.

RBZ and Government also hope to minimise moral hazards and promote prudent banking practices to promote strong corporate governance, accountability and shareholder oversights.

Government will own shares in ZABG, through a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) and will bear the cost of banking crisis resolutions already advanced to the financial sector through the Troubled Banks Fund.

It is expected that Government will fully divest from ZABG by 2007 by which time full economic turnaround would have been achieved.

Although the Special Purpose has an option to own 100 percent of ZABG, the ultimate structure will depend on the valuation of existing shareholding in the troubled banking institutions as well as the value of claims from other creditors and/or depositors converted into equity.

Initially, ZABG would be financed through the conversion of the RBZ Troubled Banks Fund and claims of other significant creditors and depositors which will be converted into equity.

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Daily Mirror, 29 December
Final nail in Moyo coffin
Daily Mirror reporter

Zanu PF has put the final nail in the coffin of Information Minister Jonathan Moyo’s political career after it set new guidelines, which disqualify the rabid critic of the private media from contesting in the party’s primary elections to select candidates for next year’s parliamentary elections. Moyo does not feature in any of the party’s structures from where candidates for the January 15 primary elections will be picked. According to new guidelines announced yesterday, only those in the central committee, national consultative assembly and provincial executives are eligible for elections.President Robert Mugabe has since said he would not appoint anyone into his Cabinet who has not been elected by the people. The junior minister’s political fortunes have been waning after his name was deleted by the presidium from the list of central committee nominees from Matabeleland North, before he was subsequently dropped from the Politburo at the December 1 to 5 party congress. His crime was the convening of the unsanctioned Tsholotsho meeting that attempted to scuttle the ascendancy of Joyce Mujuru into the party’s presidium, in favour of Speaker of Parliament Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Mnangagwa has since distanced himself from the plot, which would also have seen the removal of party vice-president Joseph Msika and chairman John Nkomo in favour of former women’s league boss Thenjiwe Lesabe and legal secretary Patrick Chinamasa, respectively. Lesabe has since been relegated to a committee member in the politburo, while Chinamasa tumbled from the party’s highest decision-making body outside congress. Although Moyo had become popular in his "home" constituency of Tsholotsho, which he had literally developed overnight, upgrading roads and providing public lighting, the meeting he held there with six provincial leaders and other "mini-heavies" from around the country has left him in a delicate situation. The party has since suspended the six provincial chairmen and war veterans’ leader, Jabulani Sibanda, which renders them ineligible to contest the primary polls.The six are: Masvingo chairman, Daniel Shumba, Manicaland’s Mike Madiro, Midlands’ July Moyo, Matabeleland North’s Jacob Mudenda, Lloyd Siyoka of Matabeleland South and Themba Ncube of Bulawayo.
Eccentric war veterans’ leader Joseph Chinotimba and former home affairs deputy minister Mabel Chinomona are also likely to be affected by the entry rules since they face disciplinary problems in their home provinces in the aftermath of the Tsholotsho meeting. Chinomona has a pending case before the party’s national disciplinary committee, while the ruling party Harare provincial executive passed a vote of no-confidence in Chinotimba and former Harare mayor Tony Gara for their various roles in the unsanctioned meeting. A number of other Zanu PF young "Turks" are also likely to be sidelined as a result of the party’s new guidelines, as the party rids itself of people perceived to be bent on destroying it from within. Zanu PF political commissar, Elliot Manyika yesterday said only provincial executive, national consultative and central committee members would be eligible to stand in the primaries, while outgoing parliamentarians who did not meet the set criteria and had no disciplinary cases against them are also in for possible re-election.
"Provincial executive members, national consultative members and central committee members are the only party members eligible to stand as party candidates in the 120 constituencies countrywide," Manyika said, adding that interested members should submit their CVs through their district coordinating committees by this coming Sunday. He added: "Outgoing Members of Parliament who do not meet the above criteria and have no disciplinary cases against them are eligible as well." However, the waiver does not count for Moyo, who was only in Parliament by virtue of having been appointed by President Mugabe as a non-constituency Member of Parliament. Manyika last night said the waiver only related to "elected" MPs. Makonde MP Kindness Paradza, also finds himself in a precarious position since he has a case pending before the party’s national disciplinary committee for allegedly disrespecting party structures and the office of the President. While Zanu PF’s secretary for information and publicity, Nathan Shamuyarira, has said Paradza has been cleared of the charges, the party’s provincial chairman for Mashonaland West, Phillip Chiyangwa, before his disappearance, insisted Paradza was still on suspension.
Political observers said there was no love lost between the erstwhile friends – Paradza and Chiyangwa. Paradza was arrested on Monday for allegedly inciting violence in his constituency against Leo Mugabe’s supporters, and was released on free bail yesterday. Mugabe is the provincial secretary for information and publicity for troubled Mashonaland West province. Manyika added that all provinces would be required to set aside a third of their constituencies for women, in line with the party’s constitution as adopted during the party’s congress early this month. Card-carrying members who could not hold positions in the party because of their employment in the civil service would only be allowed to contest the primaries after a waiver by the party’s national elections directorate. This exemption is likely to favour outgoing Zimbabwe Tourism Authority chief executive officer Tichaona Jokonya, who is reportedly eyeing Chikomba constituency in Mashonaland East. Jokonya, a former ambassador to Ethiopia, is also Zimbabwe’s former permanent representative to the United Nations in Geneva and in New York. Prospective candidates will be vetted in their respective provinces before their names are submitted to the national elections directorate for further vetting. The party has also directed that the primary elections be held in one day throughout the country, possibly to minimize rigging.
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Zim Online (SA), 29 December
EU to cut aid if Mugabe signs NGO law

Harare - The European Union will reduce all aid, including humanitarian assistance, to Zimbabwe if the southern African nation's draft non-governmental organisations (NGO) Bill was made in to effective law. The Bill, which prohibits NGOs from receiving foreign funding for human rights work and imposes several other severe restrictions on civic society, was passed by Parliament two weeks ago but must be signed by President Robert Mugabe to become effective law. In a statement the EU president said the new legislation will curtail its ability to give humanitarian assistance to Zimbabwe which in the past it has given through NGOs. The statement read in part, "the NGO Bill is bound to circumscribe the work of NGOs in the field of governance and could have a significant negative impact on the forthcoming elections in Zimbabwe. (The EU) also regrets the impact that the Bill will have on other areas, notably social, health, and humanitarian programmes. If the bill is implemented immediately, the EU's ability to provide assistance to Zimbabwe will be significantly affected". Brussels has already withheld a EU7.5 million grant to Harare for HIV/AIDS programmes until NGOs through which the funds will be disbursed are registered under the tough new law. The EU stance appears to confirm earlier warnings by civic society experts that the government's new NGO law will scare away potential foreign donors besides forcing at least half of civic organisations in the country to close down. Mugabe and his government say the new law is necessary to rein in some NGOs they accuse of hiding behind humanitarian work while plotting to topple them from power.
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Daily Mirror, 29 December
Family pays dearly for supporting MDC
Tinofa Karonga

A family in Uzumba-Maramba-Pfungwe (UMP) District in Mashonaland East paid dearly for allegedly supporting the opposition MDC, when it was banished from the area by Chief Tedius Matambanashe and war veterans a fortnight ago. Assistant Inspector Dickson Muza of UMP Police confirmed to The Daily Mirror yesterday that they had received a report that a family of eight, under the guardianship of Reginald Marongedza, was evicted from its homestead and banished from the area. Relatives had told Chief Matambanashe and war veterans that they were die-hard supporters of the MDC.Muza also said the family was alleged to have been in possession of MDC membership cards and party T-shirts. "The police received the report of the banishment and launched an investigation to establish whether it was true that the family was evicted on allegations of supporting the opposition party. The police failed to get ample evidence to show that they were members of the opposition, but we are still investigating the matter," Muza said. Last week, Marongedza (29) adamantly denied being a member or supporter of the MDC. He alleged that jealous relatives had sold him out in order for them to take over a piece of land that was left in his custody by his late parents. "I don’t support the MDC. I don’t even know their slogans, but I was labelled an MDC supporter. They have taken my land and my livestock are being kept at a friend’s home. It is only jealousy because I occupy a very big piece of fertile land and own many beasts. The matter is being handled by the district council," Marongedza said. The chief executive officer of the UMP Rural District Council, Edward Manyani, said they would deal with the matter as soon as possible. "We received the report and together with the police we are going to settle the dispute. Every person has the right to belong to a party of his or her own choice, though Uzumba is a no-go area for the opposition," Manyani said. The chief could not be contacted for comment.
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Africa's Crisis of Governance

By Tunde Obadina

Some people see in Africa's political and economic failings proof that Africans are incapable of ruling themselves. Such people may also believe that the colonial powers opted out of the continent prematurely and that some more years of tutelage might have made a difference. In this liberal age such views are rarely spoken openly by either the enemies or friends of Africa. But it would be naive to think that Africa's experience has not raised questions about the quality of the character and mind of the African. The doubt certainly occupies the thoughts of many Africans as they watch their prostrated countries treated as basket cases. Self-doubt has grown with each decade of apparent failure.

Ordinary Africans, bewildered and disappointed by the outcome of self-rule, find little around them to instil the confidence that as a people they can manage their own recovery. In some respects Africans are now more vulnerable to theories of black inferiority than they were during colonialism. Under colonialism they could dream that with liberation would come the opportunity to prove their worth. The future was uncompromised by the failures of the present. After more than three decades of misgovernment, many Africans have lost faith. In 1990 a state governor in Imo state in southeastern Nigeria explained to a public meeting in the capital Owerri that his cash-strapped government was unable to solve the severe erosion problem devastating the region. After he had spoken an old man in the audience stood up and said "Since you and other black leaders have tried your best but have not been able to improve the lives of us ordinary people, why don't we ask the whites to come back. When the white man ruled us things were not this bad. Please ask them to come and save us." The statement, spoken with sincerity, met momentary silence in the audience followed by some laughter and applause.

In a way, the whites have been returning. Some would say, they never left. Over the past two decades western governments, aid agencies and multilateral finance institutions have sent experts to African countries to help them develop. The help increasingly involved attempts to direct the political and economic development of the recipient nations.

Calls for recolonisation

The experts and their prescriptions have failed to shift Africa. The next stage, it seems, is for the West to directly take over the management of troubled African nations. Last year writer Norman Stone in 'The Observer' newspaper proposed a programme of enlightened re-imperialism' to sort Africa out. Conditions in Africa today, he said, were similar to the bloody mess that prevailed before European colonisation in the nineteenth century. "There is a strong case for another version of the nineteenth-century liberal international order to be re-imposed....Empires do not have to be formal or tyrannical.... There are times when they do good, and the post-independence history of Africa indicates that this is one of them."

Why not simply privatise whole African countries?, asked Robert Wheelen of the Institute of Economic Affairs. In the journal of the institute in September 1996 Wheelen argued that multi-national companies should be invited to bid for the right to run African nations under leases of up to 21 years. They would undertake to provide specific services and bring about efficiency and discipline in return for pre-set tax revenue.

The tragedy of Africa's situation is that as absurd as these proposals by latter day imperialists sound, there are many Africans who would support some degree of direct governance by external agents to straighten out their countries. For instance, some Liberians called for their war-battered nation to become a trust territory of the United Nations. International football star George Weah, apparently exasperated by the anarchy and hopeless condition of his homeland, told the New York Times in May 1996: "The United Nations should come in and take over Liberia, not temporarily, but for life. To make Liberians believe in democracy, to make us believe in human rights." For his outspokenness, two of Weah's female cousins were raped and his house burnt down by gunmen from one of the warring factions that had for six years turned Liberia into a killing field in a senseless war.

Weah's comment was naive but understandable. Blaming Africa's woes on bad leaders has become the mantra of many people concerned about the continent's future. A change in government, preferably through democratic means, is viewed as the main pre-requisite for making a fresh start and attracting economic investment. Analysts focus their minds on how inept African leaders can be got rid of. George Ayittey, a Ghanaian professor at the American University in Washington, DC, suggested that African dictators be paid to relinquish power. Citing the example of Somalia where a war-induced famine in 1992 led to an international mercy mission, Ayittey told a reporter during the OAU summit in July 1996 "The humanitarian mission cost more than $3 billion. If we had just taken $50 million and bought out the regime, imagine the savings in terms of life and infrastructure." In a similar vain, the Financial Times Africa expert Michael Holman, had suggested in his paper that a demobilisation fund be set up to ease the army out of power in Nigeria and "provide golden handshakes to officers who want to leave."

The tendency is to view Africa's woes in terms of the excesses of individual dictators and their cronies. The image that comes to mind is of kleptomaniacs and megalomaniacs like Mobutu Sese Seko and Jean-Bedel Bokassa. It is easy to draw from this the conclusion that the simple solution to Africa's governance problems is to change its leaders.

The belief that a nation can be redeemed by removing a set of crooked leaders inspired the killing of Nigeria's first post-independence civilian rulers by idealistic army majors. But the coup only succeeded in shifting power to another set of ineffectual leaders. Since independence in 1960 the leadership of Nigeria has changed nine times. This is more changes of government than occurred in most European democracies during the period. Despite the changes of governments, the Nigerian state remained corrupt and ineffective. Throughout Africa, changes in helmsmen have not lessened corruption or quickened the pace of economic development.

Ignorance and lack of capacity not the main causes

Some people put the persistence of mismanagement down to a lack of capacity for good governance. One result of this view is the explosion of capacity building programmes initiated by donor and multilateral agencies. The aim of the schemes is to help African countries put in place structures and reforms that will strengthen the rule of law, support democracy and promote greater accountability and transparency. Underlying many of these programmes is the notion that poor governance is due largely to incompetence, ignorance and inadequate infrastructure. In effect, the aim is to do now what many feel should have been done by the colonisers before they relinquished power. That is, teach Africans how to govern themselves.

Certainly African nations suffer from poor administrative, inadequate judicial infrastructure and insufficient numbers of expertise. But these short-comings cannot explain the abuse and misuse of state power in the continent. For instance, Nigeria has a large number of highly-trained professionals, including accountants and constitutional lawyers. Laid down budgetary procedures, include provisions for checks and balances, are adequate. But the fact remains that Nigerian rulers have ignored the provisions of the constitution and laid down administrative procedures are irrelevant to the actual workings of government.

Abuse and misuse of power and authority by Nigerian rulers have not been largely due any national lack of capacity for good governance. Nigerian leaders have not been ineffective and tyrannical because they are incompetent or ignorant. Neither has the lack of administrative or intellectual expertise to formulate and properly execute growth enhancing policies been the major problem. Quite simply, Nigerian leaders have acted in their own selfish interests in total disregard to existing rules and laid-down procedures.

The popular image of African rulers as bungling buffoons is not helpful. It obscures reality. Anyone who has observed the way in which the military has dominated politics in Nigeria would see that the generals are no fools. They and their advisers have shown themselves to be quite adept in the art of retaining political power. Since the early 1990s they have toyed with the civilian political class. General Sani Abacha has since seizing power in 1993, with remarkable political skill undermined the opposition - sowed confusion in their ranks and made them loss credibility in the eyes of the public. Judged by Machievellian standards, Nigeria's ruling generals and their advisers have shown great political sophistication. It would be a mistake to approach Abacha and his cronies as a bunch of idiots, ignorant of the art of politics.

Similarly, we should not see reactionary economic policies and practices of African governments as stemming mainly from lack of knowledge of economic theory and management. Many of the economic policies and actions that have entrenched African countries in economic under-development were deliberately carried out to serve the interest of those in power. African ruling elites have benefited enormously from the economic misfortune of their nations. Not surprising, they prefer to maintain the status quo as chaotic and depressive as it may seem for the majority of Africans and liberal observers from abroad. There is reason in the anarchy.

Scramble for wealth and power

Rather than view African rulers as buffoons, we should see them and their actions from the perspective of the interests they serve. The failure of democracy and economic development in Africa are due to a large part to the scramble for wealth by predator elites who have dominated African politics since independence. They see the state as a source of personal wealth accumulation. There is high premium on the control of the state, which is the biggest and most easily accessible source of wealth accumulation. The people in power and those who seek power use all means to attain their goal. This includes fostering ethnic sectarianism and political repression. Competition for control of the state, whether between the military and civilian classes or between civilian political parties, is invariably ferocious and generates instability. Many of the apparently senseless civil conflicts in Africa, including in Liberia and Somalia, are due to the battle for the spoils of power.

Franz Fanon in his book 'The Wretched of the Earth' published in 1961 eloquently described the character of the class that inherited power from the colonialists. It is "a sort of little greedy caste, avid and voracious, with the mind of a huckster, only too glad to accept the dividends that the former colonial powers hands out. This get-rich-quick middle class shows itself incapable of great ideas or of inventiveness. It remembers what it has read in European textbooks and imperceptibly it becomes not even the replica of Europe, but its caricature." This class, said Fanon prophetically, is not capable of building industries "it is completely canalised into activities of the intermediary type. Its innermost vocation seems to be to keep in the running and to be part of the racket. The psychology of the national bourgeoisie is that of a businessman, not that of a captain of industry." The description remains accurate for today's elite who have grown through civilian politics, military governments, business and the civil service.

As long as African political rulers and administrators are drawn from this class of predators, no amount of preaching the virtues of good governance or tuition on public administration will fundamentally alter the quality of governance. This is not to say that constitutional reforms and increasing civil society infrastructure are not important. They are. But they are not the key to solving the problem of bad governance.

Good governance is the effective exercise of power and authority by government in a manner that serves to improve the quality of life of the populous. This includes using state power to create a society in which the full development of individuals and of their capacity to control their lives is possible. A ruling class that sees the state solely as a means of expropriating the nation's limited resources is simply incapable of good governance. More specifically, such a class will by its character and mission abuse power.

An underlying cause of many of the manifestations of bad governance, including political repression, corruption and ethnic sectarianism, is the endeavour by the ruling classes to be and remain part of the global elite despite their nation's poverty. The competition for national resources leads to conflict and repression. It is difficult to see how there can be good governance when the orientation of the elite is to stay in the running and be part of the fifth of the world's population that forms the international consumer class.

Bad governance is not a mainly problem of ignorance or lack of infrastructural capacity or even of individual dictators. States in Africa are incapacitated as instruments of development because ruling classes, including people in and outside government, are motivated by objectives that have little to do with the common good.

Africa's tragedy is not that its nations are poor That is a condition that is a product of history. The tragedy is that it lacks ruling classes that are committed to overcoming the state of poverty. Real politics here has little to do with social and economic reconstruction. The observation of the assassinated South African writer Ruth First in her book The Barrel of a Gun published in 1970 remains valid today. "There has been eloquent, inexhaustible talk in Africa about politics, side by side with the gaping poverty of political thought. Down there on the ground in Africa, you can smother in the small talk of politics. Mostly it is about politicking, rarely about policies. Politicians are men who compete with each other for power, not men who use power to confront their country's problems."

As long as politics is dominated by predator elites it is difficult to see how meaningful democracy or economic development can be sustained.. The challenge facing those who want better governance is how to make those in power accountable and ultimately rescue the state from them to transform it an agency for positive change.

Tunde Obadina is director of Africa Business Information Services

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