Paul Walters in beBee in English, Travel, Writers Spreading the word in SE Asia • Brand Ambassador Be BEE Aug 29, 2017 · 3 min read · 1.8K

Zimbabwe. A Country Where Hope Has All But Disappeared.

In July, I once again had the privilege of re- visiting my beloved Africa, only this time I found that it was a slightly sobering experience. A pessimistic mood seems to be hovering over South Africa like a dark and sinister cloud. That country, once a beacon of immense hope has somehow slipped into a quagmire of corruption and dirty deeds, perpetrated by those who once promised so much for the people who elected them.

Zimbabwe. A Country Where Hope Has All But Disappeared.

However, it was to the north my gaze turned to witness what the future for South Africa could hold if, as is widely predicted, the country follows the same devastating road that Zimbabwe has followed for the past few decades.

In short, Zimbabwe has become Africa’s ‘basket case; its pariah leader, Robert Mugabe has, over the years systematically raped, pillaged and driven the country and its people into a state of total despair. There are now an estimated 2-3 million Zimbabwean refugees in South Africa and some four million worldwide who have fled a region that was once considered the continent’s breadbasket.

To put this into context, those numbers equate to one quarter (25%) of the population of the entire country who have been forced to flee the state’s dysfunction, appalling repression and economic failure that is nothing short of spectacular.

President Mugabe and his ruling ZANU-PF party, after failing to push through a new constitution in February 2000 began a policy of sweeping land seizure without compensation from the 4,800 white commercial farmers.

Prized and immensely profitable farms were distributed to Mugabe,  his corrupt sycophants and his leading generals in the military while the remaining, less profitable farms were divided up and redistributed to his legions of followers.

The catastrophic result of Mugabe’s ‘largess’ ensured that the county’s economy shrank by more than half over the next eight years! Inflation began to run rampant until hyperinflation took hold and reached 89.7 sextillion percent by November 2008

To put this into context, inflation at those runaway levels meant that prices for everyday goods and services doubled each and every day!

Even with the introduction of the American dollar to replace the worthless Zimbabwean dollar a few years ago, the economy has continued to contract and has fallen by a further quarter since 2013. This scenario could be considered almost comical except that, for the citizens of this beleaguered country it has meant untold hardship and devastation.

Unemployment has risen to a staggering 90% of the population, which, for any government is a recipe for disaster. Mugabe counteracted, knowing that jobless millions could, and would be a recipe for revolution, by bolstering government employees.

In 1980 the country had a civil service of 68,000 consuming one third of government revenue. Today that self same government employs over 300,000 with a further 200,000 citizens drawing pensions and social security benefits. Again, Mugabe’s mismanagement of the economy has meant that, by swelling the civil service to unsustainable levels  government jobs now swallow up 100% of revenue.

This maniacal strategy  requires massive offshore borrowings to create and sustain jobs in the only way it can, by the government becoming the country’s leading employer. The system is not only broken, it has basically been systematically smashed to pieces.

These catastrophic turns of events have meant that Zimbabweans are fleeing the county in droves. For many, South Africa is seen as their only salvation as they seek job opportunities in order to feed their families ‘back home.” For many though, South Africa often provides only more disappointment as they face xenophobic retribution from South Africans who see these economic ‘refugees’ as stealing jobs. This year alone over 1400 illegal migrants have been deported back to Zimbabwe each and every week.

They return to a country where it seems every service has simply collapsed, particularly the health system. The compounding effects of a system on the verge of collapse, coupled with poor nutrition and the spread of disease, particularly HIV/AIDS, has meant that life expectancy has fallen to just 40.7 years.

President Mugabe, at 93, naturally avoids all of this by receiving excellent health care at some of the finest clinics in Singapore and elsewhere.

Income per capita stands at a pathetic $900 P/A, which ranks in the bottom 30 worldwide with one third of Zimbabweans now requiring food aid. This, for a country that in the 1980’s was a massive exporter of wheat and grain and more than able to feed its own population.

To add insult to injury, the breakdown of the rule of law has permitted the ransacking of the economy in the interests of a small, politically connected elite. It is almost as if failure has been deliberately engineered to permit enrichment of the Mugabe family and their cronies, for they would not have been able to amass their obscene wealth without deliberately destroying the country that provided it.

The problem now is that they seem to have exported this system of failure to South Africa.

Leaders in sub Saharan Africa seem unwilling to speak out about Mugabe’s contempt for his own people, perhaps because dysfunction in their own countries is precisely what they desire in order to enrich themselves.

The international community outside of Africa seem to be increasingly disinterested in Zimbabwe’s and, latterly South Africa’s woes as perhaps the prospect of the riches, in terms of minerals is far more important than people. Corrupt governments willingly trade their nation’s wealth to the likes of China and other states, desperate for Africa’s riches for the obligatory thirty pieces of silver.

Across the world we watch almost bemused by Africa’s plight. An example of this was the West’s almost indifference to the recent arrest of the Zambian opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema, on trumped up charges, which barely made news in European and American papers (I guess they must be dealing with their own set of problems)

What is the answer?

Perhaps it’s for the disaffected to vote with their feet and dispose these corrupt and evil politicians and hold them accountable for their heinous crimes. These are ‘democratic’ counties and if democracy cannot save them, then perhaps its time to say,” abandon hope all ye who enter here’

My thanks to Tendai Biti , the former finance minister of Zimbabwe for many of the statistics quoted here.

Paul v Walters is the best selling author of several novels. When not cocooned in sloth and procrastination in his house in Bali, he scribbles for several international travel journals.

Paul Walters Sep 3, 2017 · #36

#35 @Pamela 🐝 Williams well said my dear!!!

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Pamela 🐝 Williams Sep 3, 2017 · #35

I see so many similarities here to what is occurring in the U.S. People can say 'alarmist' all they want but everything that is being said and done in our capital is exactly the same path that you lay out so aptly here Paul. "Never in the U.S.", "Not America", well I'm sure 20 years ago there were many that said "Not Zimbabwe" A country once full of hope but it took one corrupt leader to drive the country into ruin.
This is what happens when a citizenry turns a blind eye to those 'shady deals'. This is what happens when the top constantly strive for more and more. There is no harm in having but never at the expense of the working class, of those of lesser means and abilities. People can live in a fantasy all they want; the U.S. has a Mugabe at the helm and if they can't see that, if they can't see those who 'support' him in congress are no better than the thieves given the successful farms, then they are either ignorant or just plain stupid.
The 4th largest city in the US is under water, it will take billions for them to recover and yet our Mugabe is still insisting on 1.6 billion to build a damn wall.
I'm ashamed of that 34% that still support that monster, they do deserve a Mugabe. DAMN 'em all to HELL, stuff like this makes me so angry

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Ken Boddie Sep 1, 2017 · #34

Eye opening post, Pak Paul, which begs the question "What is real democracy?" We are ridiculed (and indeed self ridicule) here in Oz for changing our government and leaders as often as the Poms have a bath, but thank goodness we can.

Paul Walters Aug 31, 2017 · #33

#32 @Ali 🐝 Anani, Brand Ambassador @beBee Thank you, solid points as always !

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@Paul Walters- high rate of unemployment + skyrocketing inflation is a rare cause to which economists refer to as stagnation. Normally, and according to Phillips Curve, when unemployment increases, inflation decreases. This is a very special case and it only take a genius of corruption to make it happen. Sad story for a beautiful country. What amazes me more is that almost 25% of the population left the country and the country still faces such unbelievable rates of inflation with prices doubling almost everyday.
I wrote yesterday a buzz yesterday on The Power of Leadership.
one power is coercive power. I think we need to introduce a new name for this type of "hyperinflating power". Inflating the misery of people and the pockets of the corrupted few.

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Paul Walters Aug 31, 2017 · #31

@Peter Altschuler methinks I will avoid the USA until your own despot has slunk away from office in disgrace. Tis a shame as I have a deep love of America and most of the things it stands for . Hang in there !!!

Paul Walters Aug 31, 2017 · #30

@ Thank you sir. Unfortunately that particular country is simply being ground into the dust at the hand of an evil despot! Thank you for stopping by

CityVP Manjit Aug 31, 2017 · #29

To say this is criminal goes without saying and the degree of this economic ransacking of the country still surprises me, I did not realize things in Zimbabwe have got this bad. Great insights Paul.

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