31 March, 2014

Zimbabwe: Celebrating 90 and a Country in Ruins

by Hussein Solomon

Robert Mugabe turned 90 in February, officially making him Africa’s oldest Head of State – or should that be monarch? Dismissing rumours about his failing health (he did after all celebrate his 90th birthday receiving medical treatment in Singapore), Africa’s autocrat insisted to reporters that he was “fit as a fiddle”. Despite his protestations that all is well, it is clear that his advanced age and repeated medical treatments are encouraging factions within the ruling ZANU-PF political to position themselves for the top position following Mugabe’s long overdue demise. Two key contenders for the presidency remain the Vice President Joice Mujuru and Justice Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa.

A possible successor? Joyce Mujuru

The presidency following the despot’s death, however, will remain a poisoned chalice for any incumbent. A sixth of the country needs emergency food aid, factory closures continue, the current account deficit for 2013 stood at 23 percent of GDP, foreign investment has practically disappeared on account of Mugabe’s policy of “indigenisation” of all foreign and white-owned businesses. In practice, what “indigenisation” actually means is that ZANU-PF fat-cats can now receive a 51 percent stake in businesses to which they contributed nothing. Ordinary Zimbabweans are hardly “empowered” by this process of “indigenisation”. Not surprisingly, this banana republic continues to haemorrhage skilled workers placing further strain on the economy.

What is clear is that ZANU-PF as a whole refuses to deal with the consequences of their ineptitude and refuse to recognize that the economy is collapsing. Patrick Chinamasa, the Minister of Finance clearly has on rose-tinted spectacles since he predicted that the economy will grow at 6.1 percent in 2014. The collective reaction from economists both inside and outside of Zimbabwe was, “What the hell is this guy smoking?” This inability to deal with reality will only serve to hasten economic collapse with its resultant impoverishment and misery to ordinary Zimbabweans.
On the bright side however, Mugabe’s birthday is to be celebrated by a lavish stadium party costing R11 million. How does one respond to a stagnating economy, grim living conditions, the impoverishment of ordinary people and the penury of an entire country? You give them cake of course, birthday cake. Marie Antoinette would be so proud!

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