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Zimbabwe has new Mugabe, this time without the brains

Published on: 2 October 2019

When I first visited Zimbabwe in 1974 (then Rhodesia) the country was known as the ‘bread basket’ of Africa.

Today thanks largely to Robert Mugabe the country is ‘the basket case’ of Africa. My 1974 visit to Rhodesia was to see Willie John McBride’s British Lions playing Rhodesia. It was then a beautiful country and Salisbury was a fascinating and beautiful city. My most recent visit was 18 months ago and it was sad to see what a few years can do to what was a rich and beautiful country. My frequent visits to South Africa and Zimbabwe were predicated largely on my job as Political Risk Consultant for one of America’s largest banks. Over time I made some very close friendships and my more recent visits have been to visit friends and go on safaris to the numerous game reserves and to the Victoria Falls. The death of Robert Mugabe last week has made information on him and the country so much more readily available but none of it does Mugabe any favours.

According to the academics hyperinflation peaked in November 2008 and an estimated 89.7 sextillion percent — an eye watering number with 21 zeros after it — putting even Germany’s Weimar Republic era in the shade. I have a number of 50 million and 20 million Zimbabwean dollars still stuck on my fridge, which seriously confuses my friends as to my former wealth! In 2008 those notes would barely have enabled me to purchase a loaf of bread. Zimbabwe’s mineral riches include gold, diamonds and two-thirds of the world’s platinum reserves, but the lion’s share of the wealth was skimmed off to the benefit of Mugabe’s ruling elite. In Zimbabwe the local dollar has reputedly lost 98% of its value in the last 20 weeks.

Fuel prices have already gone up seven times in 2019. This week’s World Food Programme indicated that 2.3 million people in rural Zimbabwe are in need of emergency food and this number will increase to 5.5 million in the next few weeks. It is also estimated that there is 2.2 million people living in cities also requiring food, bringing the total to 7.7 million, which is over half the total population of the country (which used to be ‘the bread basket of Africa’). White farms were taken from the white man but instead of being given over to the poor were given largely to Mugabe’s cronies who had no concept of how to farm. The farms are now facing a very African problem. Elephants are hungry and are invading so called productive farms to get food for their young and in so doing trample down what has formerly being productive land. Zimbabwe’s inflation which is reckoned to be above 500% is the second highest in the world after Venezuela.

Per capita GDP in 2018 was the lowest in the world after the Democratic Republic of Congo. Electricity is only available for six hours per day and this is invariably between midnight and 6am. Our closest friend in Harare advises that she does her laundry and cooks all her meals during these hours. In 2015 Mugabe announced his intention to run again for re-election in 2018. But deteriorating health which necessitated three trips to Singapore for health reasons, unleashed a toxic succession battle that escalated as Grace, his former secretary and now wife, emerged as her husband’s preferred successor.

Her main rival was Emmerson Mnangagwa, Mugabe’s Vice- President and formerly head of the Military, who was his right hand man for 50 years and was responsible for some of the worst brutalities of the Mugabe regime including the deaths of some 20,000 people in Matabeleland who had the audacity to support Joshua Nkomo – one of Mugabe’s greatest protagonists. He resigned when Mugabe made it clear he wanted his wife Grace to be his successor. He moved to South Africa for one week while gathering together his supporters in the military and business circles.

He returned to Harare and placed Mugabe under house arrest. Grace reportedly disappeared to Namibia. Mnangagwa has now been in power for more than 12 months but it would be difficult to put on paper any progressive steps that he has taken while in power. The decimation of a beautiful country continues under his rule as this article refers to. He is Mugabe Number Two without the brains.

Written by: Ian Rainey, NED of 4c Executive 

Ian Rainey, Author and NED of 4c Executive

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