La Folies Zimbabwienne

The Creator sometimes listens to the radio, for the same reason that the Creator reads newspapers or books. It is always worth knowing what the enemies of truth are up to. If you know what Lie the vile ones are peddling, you know what to expect, don’t you?
Perhaps.
The recent establishment of a government of national unity in Zimbabwe did not make the Creator dance around with glee, because it was painfully obvious that almost nobody involved in that government knew what they were doing, and those who did know where the ones responsible for most of the problems in the country, so what was going to be achieved by it? The only reason to be happy was the fact that the people most opposed to anything good coming out of Zimbabwe were extremely unhappy about the government of national unity. That didn’t mean the government was good, but at least some bad guys were being pissed off.
The radio, however, revealed something which was quite interesting. The Zimbabwean Prime Minister, Morgan Tsvangirai, visited South Africa for a meeting with the South African Minister of Finance. Tsvangirai had previously pledged to solve the problem that the entire Zimbabwean civil service was on strike, by pledging to pay everybody in foreign currency. Unfortunately Zimbabwe does not possess that foreign currency. To compound matters the government pledged to print coupons which could be redeemed for the foreign currency which did not exist, and which would simply further promote inflation. Essentially, Tsvangirai’s visit was a confession that he had no answers and was having to come to Pretoria with a begging-bowl.
But then he came out of the meeting and announced that there would be no “randification” of the Zimbabwe dollar. He would not have gone to Pretoria if anyone else had been prepared to give him the money he needed. So, obviously, he needed the money from South Africa. But, on the other hand, he was not prepared to submit to the obvious suggestion — that the Zimbabwe dollar should be pegged to the rand in the way that, say, the Namibian dollar is. He had his pride.
But, of course, South Africa is not going to give Zimbabwe money for nothing. Obviously there has to be something in it for South Africa. It would appear that Tsvangirai was not prepared to provide that something. So what was he going to do? He did not say.
Therefore, the radio naturally went to seek someone who was prepared to say something. What was obvious was that Zimbabwe was in a catastrophic state and that its leaders were not prepared to do anything. So how was this to be put in a palatable way?
By changing the subject.
The task was handed to Dr. Jammine of Econometrix, and he handled it with his customary brilliance. Firstly, he explained why nothing could be done. The reason for this was that Mugabe was still President. Because Mugabe was still President, it was impossible for Tsvangirai to accept any aid from South Africa. Q.E.D.
That evasion is interesting, since it avoids the question of what Tsvangirai was doing in South Africa in the first place. If he had no reason to go there, why had he gone there? What was going on?
Jammine’s implication, naturally not spoken out loud, was that the South African government supported Mugabe. This has been a regular claim of the MDC, and also of the West, and also of the South African media. There is actually no evidence for it. There is a certain amount of evidence that the South African government, certainly under Mbeki and probably subsequently, does not approve of Mugabe’s policies or their consequences.
Of course, even if the South African government did support Mugabe, that is a poor reason for the Prime Minister of Zimbabwe to refuse to have anything to do with South African economic support. The Prime Minister’s objective should be to do what is right for the country; one of the primary criticisms of Mugabe has been that as President he has sought to serve party over nation. In addition, an astute politician (which Tsvangirai is not, admittedly) ought to be able to make political capital out of negotiating a loan, a grant or anything related to that.
Jammine’s statement, false and ludicrous as it was, nevertheless helped explain what was going on. Jammine undoubtedly knows what he is talking about. The EU and America are refusing to help Zimbabwe, referring all queries to SADC, which they say ought to help Zimbabwe. No SADC country other than South Africa can help Zimbabwe. However, South Africa was responsible for resolving Zimbabwe’s political crisis, against the wishes of the EU and America. Apparently, someone — presumably, the EU and/or America — does not want South Africa to help Zimbabwe out.
But Tsvangirai could hardly not go to South Africa. He had been referred to them by his former political backers, after all. So he came to the government which he had been abusing for the last few years as dishonest and corrupt and hateful (spending most of his time hanging out with its political enemies) and begged for assistance. Try imagining Hugo Chavez going to America and asking for economic aid and you are in the same sort of territory. But South Africa is not America; the South Africans seem to have made a proposal to Tsvangirai, which he immediately turned down as a terrible threat to Zimbabwe’s independence. Tellingly, ZANU (PF) agreed with Tsvangirai immediately, one spokesperson declaring that South African aid would turn Zimbabwe into a “South African supermarket”.
Perhaps many Zimbabweans would prefer a South African supermarket to what they have at the moment, but obviously neither ZANU (PF) nor the MDC is going to consult the public on what they want. In actual fact, the SADC country most like a South African supermarket is undoubtedly Botswana, whose pula is not pegged to the rand (although it has been falling against the rand for some time). Lesotho and Namibia, where the moloti and the N$ are pegged to the rand, are not conspicuously failing states.
Of course it is wise to be careful — you don’t want your economy to be exploited by someone with no interest in sustaining it. That was what happened to Ecuador and Argentina when they stupidly dollarised their economies. On the other hand, America is a long, long way from Ecuador and Argentina; South Africa is right next door. As a result, South Africa doesn’t view the failure of Zimbabwe with the equanimity with which America views the failure of Latin American countries. (Under the “shock doctrine” outlined a bit simplistically by Naomi Klein, Americans even hope that failure anywhere could bring them some profit.) Also, South Africa does have experience of not wrecking related economies in SADC. Finally, and most importantly, while Argentina and Ecuador were in bad economic states when they dollarised, Zimbabwe is in a totally different case. Tsvangirai’s behaviour is equivalent to a Jehovah’s Witness allowing her child to die rather than have a blood transfusion. It’s so dumb it’s no wonder ZANU (PF) supports it.
OK, but what else is there to do? Stare across the Limpopo at the black hole which now belongs to the MDC instead of ZANU (PF)? Apparently so, for Jammine went on to say what needed to be done. It deserves a paragraph on its own.
He. Said. Zimbabwe. Should. Slash. Public. Spending.
OK, think that one through. Zimbabwe is in crisis due to the collapse of its financial and fiscal system. Money is not moving around. Exchange is not happening. People are not getting paid and unemployment is at an all-time high. This is all happening, please note, against the background of a global situation in which, er, the financial and fiscal systems are collapsing, money is not moving, exchange is not happening, and unemployment is growing very rapidly indeed. So Zimbabwe is simply a miniature precursor and an extreme version of the global credit crunch. How did the Westerners cope — pretend to cope, to be precise — with their crunch, crunch, crunch? By borrowing vast amounts of money and spending it. Keynesianism, standard procedure, if they hadn’t given all the money to rich people who wasted it. (The Creator has a theory about that.)
But Zimbabwe is told that in a fiscal and financial crisis, the thing to do is to spend less. Which will exaggerate the problem. Which will also, of course, compel the government to close down social services, most particularly education and health care, the two jewels in the crown of Zimbabwean administration (though the strike in both spheres is rapidly turning both jewels into paste). No doubt the goal of this is to force Zimbabwe to do a lot of privatisation which will make someone very rich. In other words, Jammine’s response to the problem — and we should assume that it is a response which is more or less official to the ruling class — is the standard “shock doctrine” approach; how can I make money (for myself or for my class) out of the misery of these people?
Point is that if Zimbabwe does not find a white knight, it will have no option but to do exactly this. The only white knight available is South Africa, and South Africa also has the people who could be put in place in Zimbabwe to check that the money being spent is wisely spent. (One thing the Treasury is very good at is preventing provinces from wasting money.) South Africa does not really want the Zimbabwean education system to collapse (it’s the nearest thing to a functioning school system in Africa south of the Sahara) nor the health care system to collapse (the cholera epidemic did not stop short when it came to the Zimbabwean border).
Whereas foreign capital would be quite happy to see both systems destroyed, with the bulk of the staff sacked and the infrastructure privatised and in the hands of foreign owners. It’s worth remembering Tsvangirai’s great turnaround in the 1990s, when from campaigning against the Economic Structural Adjustment Programme when he was head of the ZCTU, he campaigned in support of an ESAP when he established the MDC (and took the ZCTU with him). Maybe this is just the latest in a decade-long programme of betrayal of the Zimbabwean people.
Nothing very new there, perhaps, but on the other hand, not massively cheery, is it?

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