Skip to comments.Zimbabwe in danger of reverting to medieval-style feudal state in 2003
Posted on 01/08/2003 4:35:59 AM PST by Clive
As Zimbabwe enters 2003, the entire formal business sector is being driven underground and the elite of Robert Mugabes Zanu PF party are acquiring revered names on the company register at fire-sale prices; several hundred, perhaps several thousand, evicted white farmers surreptitiously try to keep some production going, risking jail terms; independent journalists live in a nebulous state; and the only daily newspaper not controlled by the state is in trouble.
In short, Zimbabwe is in danger of returning in 2003 to some form of mediaeval feudal system in which is it impossible to work any piece of ground, operate any enterprise, or pursue any livelihood except with this implicit clause: "You will be faithful in thought, word and deed to the ruling party and their claim to hold on to power at any cost."
The dire plight of many urban businesses is due to orders by the state to sell products at fixed prices despite hyper-inflation above 175 percent. The maximum prices in many instances exceed cost of procurement, particularly where there is some imported content.
Some businesses, whether under the new or the old owners, survive by hastily re-packaging their product. Margarine, for example, is labelled "spread", as if it were beef or yeast extract, which is not yet embraced by controls. Other businesses trade out of the back door. Some managers who are caught simply carry on, adding the fines to their under-the- counter prices as an extra charge on the customer.
Among the commercial farmers whose land has been seized, several hundred are simply waiting, hoping they will, somehow or other, be able to return and revive production on properties from which they were forcibly evicted although they received no formal "Section 8" seizure orders under the Land Acquisition Act.
Some were thrown out at a few hours' or even a few minutes' notice by violent mobs or by prominent members of the political elite who simply announced "We're taking over. If you don't go right away we'll kill your family."
Many of these properties are now derelict, the homesteads looted and vandalised, machinery and irrigation equipment stolen along with harvested crops in the barns.
Some farmers who did receive Section 8 orders are secretly trying to keep at least a bit of production going -risking jail sentences of up to seven years.
In theory, their land now belongs to the state, although whether any fair-minded court of law would uphold this is open to question.
They have based themselves in nearby towns and cities or on their neighbours' properties. They sneak out to plant or tend crops, both for themselves and for groups of squatters with whom they have reached a modus vivendi, and to look after livestock and infrastructure.
They hope the political clouds will break, perhaps as a result of food shortages and the threat of famine hanging over 8 million Zimbabweans - 70 percent of the 11,6m population.
Newspapers and periodicals were in the last batch of products to have their prices frozen, a move that threatens to bankrupt all privately owned media. (The regime might subsidise the titles controlled by its Mass Media Trust.)
We, as Zimbabwean journalists, exist in an even more nebulous state, having applied two months ago for accreditation for 2003 in terms of the newly-passed Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act. We have neither received accreditation nor been categorically refused. Anyone working without accreditation after December 31 may be sentenced to up to two years' imprisonment.
On December 31, the state-appointed Media and Information Commission said that some time during the week beginning January 6 it would start issuing certificates to journalists, publications and publishing houses stating they had permission to operate in the coming year. It did not say when, or how, those refused permission would be notified.
The Commission chairman Tafataona Mahoso is a Marxist ideologue who lectures on politics at Harare polytechnic.
The Supreme Court has yet to rule on a petition brought by journalists to have the act ruled unconstitutional as a violation of entrenched rights of free expression.
Mahoso said his Commission was still processing additional information it had sought from some applicants, and compiling a list of "delinquent companies" which had not applied for registration.
Sources at the Commission say the group of correspondents for foreign media to which I belong is being "confrontational" because we submitted our US $50 application fees in Zimbabwe dollars, converted at the official rate, instead of in US dollar bills.
In a letter to the commission, our lawyers pointed out that it is illegal for Zimbabwean citizens and permanent residents (which we all are) to pay a Zimbabwean entity, such as the Commission, in foreign exchange. At the official rate, US$50 is Z$2,750. On the streets, the only place where most Zimbabwe residents can buy foreign exchange, the 50 American notes would cost Z$85,000.
If accreditation is granted, correspondents for foreign media have to pay a further fee of US$1,000 - Z$55,000 at the official rate, a cool Z$1.7 million on the black market.
Mahoso responded mid-December demanding copies of our contracts with our foreign media clients. We presume the Commission wanted to calculate a rake-off on our earnings. We replied that most of us don't have contracts - foreign or features editors simply phone and request contributions. Then Mahoso demanded attested copies of professional qualifications certificates, or articles published under our by-lines.
Independent journalists join so many Zimbabweans whose practice of an honest livelihood is sinking into illegality, while those who have committed robbery and murder have been shielded by the state and allowed to continue with impunity.
Zimbabwes sole independent daily newspaper has been the most high-profile casualty so far. The Daily News, launched in 1999 under founder- editor Geoff Nyarota, survived the January 2001 bombing of its presses immediately after Moyo declared it to be "an enemy of the state" that would be silenced. It managed to sustain publication, using contract printers, then imported new presses enabling it to resume an aggressive sales drive.
Despite violent intimidation of vendors in many rural centres, where ruling party militants declared The Daily News "banned", the rival Herald's circulation has dropped from more than 130,000 to 70,000 a day as it lost credibility.
The week before Christmas - as the price controls on publications were gazetted - the Daily News failed to appear because of a strike by workers demanding 150 percent pay rises that approached the rate of inflation.
Nyarota has reportedly been at loggerheads with new executive chairman Sam Nkomo. Management accused Nyarota of fomenting industrial action by advancing the strikers their month-end salaries and on December 30 announced his dismissal. Nyarotas deputy, Davison Maruziva, resigned in sympathy.
If the Daily News is forced to change its stance it will be a major blow for civil society. But the threat, now, is to the entire formal sector economy.
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Of their own free will they chose Mugaby and communism. The last I checked they gleefully chose to kick out the farmers providing food for their country, for the simple reason they were white... aka "racism". They and their mad leader stole these lands for their own and now those farms lie fallow producing NOTHING all because of their greed.
By and large the press and nations around the world remained silent while all this has happened because:
1) Most of them support communism and socialism.
2) Most of them support racism against whites.
"God is not mocked, whatever a man sows, that shall he reap." We are now viewing the consequences/fruit of the actions these people have willingly taken.
Do not expect those of us opposed to communism and racism (black, white or yellow) to any longer "feel their pain" or run to the rescue with dollars to prop up this wicked system. No matter how many pictures of starving masses presented on the "national news" or CNN. This has come about as a direct result of their own on-going choices. We are "tapped out" of unthinking emotionalism and cash.
We are also no longer willing to prop up wicked men like Mugaby so he can sustain his communist "workers paradise" of hate, aka GULAG. Nor are we willing to endure using our military as a "meals on wheels" or another "Black Hawk Down".
If they genuinely want our help, if they want our food aid, if they want our money, let them FIRST shoot their mad dog leader, renounce communism and racism. Then and ONLY then will we consider the situation.
The people enduring this self-imposed holocaust have within themselves the choice and where-with-all to change this horrific situation. That choice lies with them.
This may seem cruel and heartless but the truth is, the vast majority of us are no longer willing to prop up systems and peoples who hate us, want to destroy us and who ONLY love us for our money.