Saturday, October 06, 2007

A little ray of difficulty amidst the disaster of Zimbabwe

Any media lawyers out there amongst your swelling ranks, Legion of Fans? Anyone know how the laws of libel apply to blogs?

Would, hypothetically speaking, it be a bad thing for me to describe, say, the leader of a sizeable European nation as a fucking idiot?

Sorry, LOF, but I'm a little angry. It was watching telly that did it.

Apropos of none of the above, the Chancellor of Germany and current head of the G8, Angela Merkel, is currently in Africa. She met with President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa yesterday to discuss zee Zimbabwean zituation.

At a press conference following the meeting she said, now fully briefed, that the situation was "difficult", but not "disastrous". Zimbabwe needed, she was reported as saying, an "African solution".


Frau Merkel, who I am sure is a very nice person, could do with a little face time with the people of Zimbabwe. Asking Mr "quiet diplomacy" for his view on what's happening in Zimbabwe is a bit like asking Japan's war time prime minister, Tojo, for his views on his buddy Adolf Hitler's relations with the jews.

"He's got some issues," Tojo might have said, "but he's working through them. I'm sure he'll find a German solution."

So, Ms Merkel (if you're doing a spot of self-googling, as I myself have been known to do) what's the difference between "difficult" and "disastrous"?

Perhaps we should put you to the test, Ange. Let's drop you somewhere in the middle of Zimbabwe - Gweru, for example. A pretty little town.

Let's give you some money to help you get by. We'll be exceedingly generous and not give you the government-mandated minimum monthly wage of ZW$150,000 (about US$0.25c), enough to buy a beer or a coke. Instead we'll give you what a domestic or mine worker makes - about ZW$5 million. That's about $US9 - for the month, that is.

You'll need to eat, but here's the catch. Because of the president's decision to evict all the white farmers, there's not enough maize in the country, so that means no mealie meal, which would be your staple diet as a Zimbabwean. Oh, by the way, there's actually no other food or drink on the shop shelves at the moment because of the President's decision to introduce artificial price controls. This led to police and soldiers and the party faithful buying up entire stores, so there's nothing to buy now. Sorry.

Of course, there is the thriving black market, so go find some food there. With your five mill you could buy a bag of potatoes for about $3 million. That should see you through the month - one potato per day. The president doesn't want a war, or revolution, so he's just allowed some cattle to be slaughtered - if you're quick you can buy enough stewing steak for one meal for half a million dollars.

Not happy Angela? Difficult, isn't it. You've got $1.5 million left to last the month. Let's hope, God forbid, that you don't get sick. The Nigerian doctor (all the Zimbabweans have left) in the hospital down the road will not even admit you for a consultation unless you sling him a $2 million backhander (that's before any prescriptions or other fees - this goes into his pocket). So, basicially, if you get sick, you're stuffed. Not that there's any medicine in the hospital anyway.

Had enough, Ange?

Maybe you'll see sense and, like an estimated further 2,999 Zimbabweans per day, you'll try and cross into South Africa or Botswana to find work - legally or illegally.

Everything we're talking about so far, Angie, is basically lifted from a conversation I had the other day with a Zimbabwean guy I know, who is a gardener. As well as trying to feed himself and his wife and kids he's trying to pay school fees. ZW$600,000 a month (one US dollar) doesn't sound like a lot, but with three kids that eats away a hell of a lot of your monthly wage.

My friend the gardener told me he'd go to South Africa, about 320km distant, if he could afford to get there. He can't. He's not well enough to walk, and doesn't want to chance ending up in hospital.

"If I can find a white man with a bakkie (a pickup)," he said, "he might give me a lift to the border for free. If I asked a black man, he would charge me at least $2 million."

I won't tell you what Government troops did to his sister during quashing of the Matabele rebellion, as I know there are some kids who read this blog. It's bad enough I used the F word. But that's old news, dating back to the early 80s when the West turned a blind eye to what was happening in Zimbabwe.

But back to you, Angela. Bad luck, eh? You're stuck in Zimbabwe with a bag of potatoes, one night's meat and $1.5 million dollars. What's that? Toilet paper? Glad you asked, Frau Merkel - you can buy four rolls for that 1.5 mill.

But wait... in the time you've spent trying to work out your budget, the zim dollar has just nose-dived even further. Overnight, it's just lost another 30 per cent of its value (that's the effect of 4000 per cent inflation). That 1.5 million you've got left is now actually worth $1,000,000 and falling, and it's still 29 days until your next pay.

If you're angry at the man and the party responsible for all this, don't dare raise your voice. The elections are around the corner and people are already making plans to move away from their villages and start sleeping in the bush... because at night all the president's men come around and deliver beatings, just to remind you who to vote for.

Difficult, isn't it, living in Zimbabwe?



ali g said...

Could be worse.. at least Zimbabwe doesn't have to worry about the prospect of 3 years of Kevin @ 7 and Julie Gizzard in their upcoming elections as we are down here in Oz.

meggie said...

I wish crying could wet the barren earth.
Or blow the sh!t out of the powers that be.

Anonymous said...

Kev bid $5m on a beachside holiday home so dont spose he's too worried about climate change and rising sea levels

redcap said...

Little bloody wonder half of Zimbabwe, including the clergy, is praying for Mugabe's death. I guess with 1000 bodyguards around him, thinking evil thoughts is the only way they've got of topping the mad bastard.