05:35 pm
24 May 2017

Six areas of misplaced hope in Zimbabwe

Yamamoto is a Japanese researcher who has made Zimbabwe a special subject. He is often very perceptive and is always well informed. This year Singapore celebrates 50 years of Independence and China is now just 38 years since the end of the Mau era. During the same period of time that we have lived under the Mugabe tyranny – the country has not progressed at all and Zimbabweans are now poorer and live shorter lives than they did 50 years ago. 

Dakota wisdom and riding a dead horse

AS THEY say, the tribal wisdom of the Dakota Indians, passed on from generation to generation, says that when you discover that you are riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount. In Zimbabwe however, a whole range of far more advanced strategies are often employed. These include:

  • Buying a stronger whip.
  • Changing riders.
  • Threatening the horse with termination.
  • Appointing a committee to study the horse.
  • Visiting other sites to see how others ride dead horses.
  • Lowering the standards so that dead horses can be included.
  • Re-classifying the dead horse as “living, impaired”.
  • Hiring outside contractors to ride the dead horse.
  • Harnessing several dead horses together to increase the speed.
  • Attempting to mount multiple dead horses in hopes that one of them will spring to life.
  • Providing additional funding and/or training to increase the dead horse’s performance.
  • Doing a productivity study to see if lighter riders would improve the dead horse’s performance.
  • Declaring that as the dead horse does not have to be fed, it’s less costly, carries lower overhead, and therefore contributes substantially more to the bottom line of the economy than some other horses.
  • Re-writing the expected performance requirements for all horses.
  • Promoting the dead horse to a supervisory position.

Clearly, Dakota wisdom does seem to be common sense, but not for some, especially in Zimbabwe. Here are the top five dead horses Zimbabweans have been riding. As a reader, you are free to add yours.

1) Hope that China will provide a bailout package.

Deng Xiaoping is a legend in the history of modern China. A pragmatist, Deng in 1961 uttered the famous refrain; “No matter if it is a white cat or a black cat; as long as it can catch mice, it is a good cat.” Even though this did not endear him to Mao Tse Tung, he understood that China had to be more pragmatic than communist. He led and championed the China we know today.

However, there is something about China that old school leaders of Zimbabwe don’t get. China is capitalistic and ‘There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch’! Robert Mugabe visited China from 24 to 28 August 2014, cap in hand literally. He naively thought that with over 3 trillion in foreign reserves, China was not going to worry about  dishing out a paltry $20 billion dollars, a mere pittance by comparison.

Mugabe’s visit was exactly a year from the time he ‘won’ the 2014 elections, which precipitated rapid economic decline, leaving Zimbabwe leaking like a sieve, which still continues to this day. Despite coming back empty-handed, Zimbabwe’s state-controlled media went to town touting what they called ‘nine mega deals’. Needless to say Mugabe never got the money that he thought would be used to fund the so-called ZIMASSET program, itself a damp squib.

Exactly two years after Mugabe ‘won’ the elections in 2013, and almost a year after the so-called mega deals, little has come out of it. In fact, other than a poorly structured vendor-backed loan through which state-owned NetOne has to import everything from China from switches to steel towers, there is no bailout from China. So last week, Mugabe dispatched his deputy to China to prod more on the bailout package that never was. This is what Mnangagwa said during an interview on the Talk Africa program on CCTV:

“The question is what is China doing to assist us. China is ready. The burden is now on Zimbabwe to produce bankable projects. It could be infrastructure. It could be in IT, China is ready to support.”

Therein, right there, lies the catch – bankable projects – what he and his president don’t seem to get is that the reason so much money left Zimbabwe is because the projects available are not bankable. He seems to get it yet he doesn’t quite get it.

He and his boss are kuuki yomenai – which means they can’t read the air. They are flogging a dead horse when the best strategy is to dismount. So are many Zimbabweans. There is no bailout coming from China. The Chinese are not idiots. They learnt decades ago from Deng that ‘no matter if it is a white cat or a black cat; as long as it can catch mice, it is a good cat.’ But then the Zimbabwean cat will not catch mice for them, so it’s not a good cat. They (the Chinese) also learnt from their mistake in South Sudan which is costing them a lot in protecting their investments in that country.