Cross: We’ve lost our way as a nation

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SINCE July 2013 the situation in Zimbabwe has deteriorated sharply on many fronts, economic, political, diplomatic and internal governance. Each represents a special challenge; together they constitute a situation that demands some form of radical and immediate response.
Just look at each of the above aspects – economic; the economy is shrinking again. We now have deflation to contend with, completely the opposite of hyperinflation, but still damaging and dangerous. There is no confidence and capital flight continues across the board with many banks teetering on the edge.
Political; the divisions in Zanu PF are now patently visible to all and reaching a stage where we might see real conflict between the warring elements. MDC is in a mess and needs to sort out its situation, settle down to a protracted struggle for fundamental reforms and the democratic contests that lie ahead.
Diplomatic; just this past week we have had the British government take a hard stand on sanctions, the United States harden its position and refuse all overtures to relax restrictions and the EU declaration that it is unlikely to change. All stated that the July elections were not credible as representing the democratic views of the majority. Botswana broke ranks with the AU and the SADC and agreed with the views of the international community.
Finally internal governance; Jonathan Moyo thought he was being clever when he launched a small campaign to expose supporters of the Vice President for corrupt activities. He and all others have been shaken by the public reaction and they have not been able to get the Genie back into the bottle. In fact, the ripple effect is hard at work and every day there are new revelations of bad governance, lousy policy or no policy and simply plain theft and corruption.
We have all known that corruption had become endemic in our society – we are surrounded by the evidence, palatial homes everywhere, luxury cars, people living high with little or no evidence of support, the police road blocks, daily experiences in civil servant offices. What we did not expect was the massive salaries granted with impunity to officers and directors of State-controlled institutions. What is further disheartening is that it is clear that the State had no policy to deal with this crucial area of the management of State enterprise and agencies, none at all. All the people involved were not breaking the law – they have valid contracts and this is going to be very difficult to deal with.Advertisement

Then there is the evidence slowly emerging from Marange diamond fields. In 1870 when the first diamond discoveries were made in South Africa, tens of thousands descended on the diamond field and started mining. De Beers was formed in 1876 and within five years was the greatest mining company in the world. Diamonds provided the seed capital that built the railways, financed the coal and gold mines and founded the great Universities of South Africa. At its peak the diamond mines sold $10 million worth of diamonds a year from about 5 million carats.
In Zimbabwe the diamonds were discovered by De Beers and then abandoned as not being worth developing. The claims were taken over by ACR in London who then went on to drill and trench on site and discovered the vast wealth that lay in the sands and rock of an area about the size of the original diamond discoveries in South Africa. When they realized what was entailed, the State in Zimbabwe simply booted out the company with scant regards for their rights or the law.
They then allowed a diamond rush that brought in 40,000 small scale miners. When it dawned on the regime that they were finding real money, the State simply drove them off using dogs and armed soldiers, in the process killing over 200. They then set up a series of companies to exploit the find and between 2008 and 2013 (five years) they extracted over 100 million carats of diamonds worth at least $12 billion dollars.
What do we have to show for all that new wealth – a Chinese monstrosity of a shopping mall in Harare, a hotel in Mutare, a couple of military instillations that we paid for with our own money but using Chinese contractors and little else. We saw private jets flying in and out of our airports and the airfield at Marange itself (they have at least two capable of handling jets with modern equipment), we hear of shadowy deals involving millions and characters from Belgium, Dubai, Hong Cong and Angola. But we only saw tiny sums reaching the State coffers.
In 2012 I estimate that the gangsters who controlled the Marange fields had availed to themselves more resources than were available to the Minister of Finance. One hears of major corruption in countries and this must rank with the top corruption scams in history. Next door where De Beers is in partnership with the Botswana Government, the diamond mines fund the budget, they have free education up to University level, a Sovereign Wealth Fund with $4 billion in it and the whole operation is open, transparent and accountable.
Every field we look at, every Ministry, every State enterprise is rotten to the core, packed with people appointed, not for their capacity and ability but for patronage purposes. Where some sanity has been restored – for example in the energy sector where Elton Mangoma was the Minister for three short years, the new Minister has fired the Boards and is busy replacing them with individuals on a political and patronage basis. The potential for a disaster is great and could not be more important to the wider economy.
I have never seen confidence levels so low. People have no faith in their political leaders, no faith in our institutions and no faith in the police or any other of our service agencies. There is little or no patriotism and the famous nationalistic spirit that once dominated our country has gone. People everywhere are simply looking after number one and seeking wealth where ever it can be found and the great majority, are living in absolute poverty and despair.
On the edge of my constituency is the largest mental health hospital in the country. It has 600 permanent patients and deals with others on an outpatient basis. Its budget for this year is $1,2 million, its facilities are dilapidated and run down and they owe local service providers and the private sector $1 million in unpaid debts. They cannot afford medicine or food for their patients.
Later this month, we will spend millions on a birthday party for a 90 year-old man who has presided over this whole mess for 34 years. This month he will also see his daughter (who has been studying in Hong Kong and living in a flat worth $5 million) marry in Harare in a ceremony which will also cost millions and a reception at their massive home in Harare which is being expanded and refurbished without any regard to the cost.
Somehow we have lost our compass, lost our way as a Nation and no one seems to know the way back to the road or even have the inclination to try.
Eddie Cross is MDC MP for Bulawayo South. This article first appeared on his website