As I focus these days on the dark deception at the international level, we turn today to the most extreme example: Zimbabwe. I have followed world media reports extensively but there is something I have not once heard asked or discussed: Why is Zimbabwe, once one of Africa’s most promising countries, where it is today? Or more pointedly, why is Zimbabwe reported and portrayed to be where it is today?
Let us start off by readily agreeing that President Robert Mugabe is an authoritarian leader, a tendency for which he is, needless to say, not alone in Africa. Having said that, everything else simply does not add up. Let us look at various inflation rates. Iraq for 2007: 64.80 per cent; Afghanistan for 2007: 16.30 per cent, according to the CIA World Factbook. The DR Congo for 2006: 14.4 per cent; another African country in chaos, Burundi for 2006: 11 per cent.
Then, a Voice of America radio broadcast on April 1, 2008 said: “In Somalia, continuing insecurity, a surge in food and fuel prices, and uncontrolled printing of money have created runaway inflation that is threatening the lives of millions already suffering from 18 years of war and lawlessness.” What, then, is Somalia’s runaway rate of inflation after “18 years of war and lawlessness”? “Over 100 per cent”, according to the website indexmundi.com.
We have taken a look at a cross-section of some of the world’s most unstable countries: Iraq, Somalia, Afghanistan, Burundi, the DR Congo and the figures for inflation we see are 14, 11, 64, 100 percent and so forth. Let us turn now to the world record holder, Zimbabwe. As of March 2008, the country’s inflation rate stood at 165,000 per cent.
Zimbabwe has not had a single military coup since independence in 1980. No civil war, no war with any of its neighbours, no major drought or famine, no earthquake, no volcanic eruption and no floods caused by extreme rainfall, no locust invasion.
Furthermore, Zimbabwe has been ruled by ZANU-PF government from 1980-2008, by the same Prime Minister and later President Mugabe, pursuing the same economic policies, with the same management or mismanagement style.
Before the Mugabe government started harassing and uprooting the White farmers in 2000, this government kept inflation at 5 per cent, 8 per cent (or 11 per cent in difficult years.) How, then, does a country with all the same factors and leaders from 1980 to 2000 suddenly (because the White commercial farmers have been uprooted) see inflation soar to world record levels in a space of just six years starting in 2000? And how is it that a stable Zimbabwe has an inflation rate 1,500 times higher than Somalia, a country without a government since 1991? Does any of this make sense?
Away from abstract figures, the evidence before our ordinary eyes is even more puzzling. If you have watched news video footage on BBC TV, CNN, and other Western TV networks, without exception, you will no doubt have noticed that the streets of the capital Harare are far cleaner and better maintained than those in Kampala, even during the week that Uganda hosted the Commonwealth summit last November.
Have you seen any beggars on Harare’s streets? Have you taken the time to notice clean and well-painted government buildings in Harare? During the recent presidential campaign rallies, you might have noticed that both the supporters of President Mugabe and the opposition were generally well-dressed, looked and acted cheerful. Nobody wore rags or went about barefooted.
In 2003 and 2007, South Africa’s subscription TV channel M-Net sponsored the Big Brother Africa reality television show. In both competitions, Zimbabwe had representatives resident in Harare, Tapuwa Mhere in 2003 and Bertha Zakeyo in 2007. You saw them confident, relaxed girls, not thin beggarly girls who had not had proper meals in years.
More importantly, for M-Net to still have an office in Zimbabwe where viewing is by paid-up subscription, presupposes that there are enough Zimbabweans with money to afford the luxury of pay TV, despite the 100,000+ inflation rate. With that kind of inflation, you don’t have the extra money for luxuries like DSTV.
So how come, for all this obvious evidence, nobody has asked the simple question: is this Zimbabwe story real or an orchestrated series of events by the British and American governments and media to punish Mugabe for humiliating the White settlers in Zimbabwe? It leads us to ask the auxillary question: might all these supposedly impressive economic growth, dropping HIV infection, and inflation rates in Uganda under President Yoweri Museveni have, after all, been falsified, as have all the election results of 1996, 2001, and 2006?
Why do we consistently read about impressive growth and achievement figures under Museveni’s rule, and yet most of us feel and know that we are well worse off today than 22 years ago?
By Timothy Kalyegira
Mr. Kalyegira is a columnist with the Daily Monitor paper of Uganda.
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