WE are all waiting with baited breath, in anticipation of news that President Robert Mugabe is no longer ruling Zimbabwe.
Whether it be by quiet passing to the he
reafter at his venerable age, by pompous procession into an encouraged exile or by the bloody hands of the masses, there is no doubt that the time of his departure is near.
We are all so single-mindedly focused on this event that I wonder if we are not missing the larger picture.
On the day after Mugabe has found a new home, what will have changed in ours? Not very much and not for some time to come. So much of Zimbabwe’s plight has fallen far beyond the reach of ordinary correction it will take decades to recover.
Aids – (not even Mugabe’s fault) will still wreck the population and overwhelm medical services for the foreseeable future. Any cure is likely to be a first world cure and will be out of reach for Zimbabwe.
More than a million Zimbabwean orphans will grow up (if they are lucky) without the support of a family infrastructure. The burden of raising them falls on the state which is incapable of such a task.
The inevitable result is a class of lawless “untouchables” living in squalor and preying on the privileged in the same manner as the gangs of Brazil today.
Government – after the hyenas have fed, only the vultures are left to pick the bones. If Zanu PF remains in power the feudal chefs who hold power in their own little regions will have no one to answer to and will continue to gorge on the economy at any price.
Mugabe has given them all an appetite for quick riches and, unchecked, they will drain their own pots and squabble with each other for the last pickings.
In all likelihood this will degenerate into civil war between different factions of the war vets, Green Bombers, police and the army. In 10 years Zimbabwe may look like Congo.
If the MDC should somehow pluck up the stamina to rise to power, things may get better somewhat as international goodwill helps boost and patch the economy.
but Zanu PF is not likely to give up power easily. Civil war may again arise between the two with a similar outcome. Though this seems to be the brightest hope, it is a small candle indeed.
Economy – GDP has fallen by more than 40% in four years. Inflation has become hyperinflation and wealth has been destroyed across the entire society. In a well-managed economy you could hope to grow it back by 8-10% per year after you pick up the pieces of the train wreck.
With excellent management and international support Zimbabweans could hope to see a return to 1993 standards of living in about two decades. For those of you that don’t speak economics, that means it will take 20 years to live as well as you did 10 years ago.
Agriculture – everyone agrees the land reform was a disaster – no one can reverse it. Agricultural output will be down by at least 30-40% for the next few years until some sort of stability returns. Get used to the bread lines.
Forex – as long as the economy is depressed and destroyed forex will be non-existent, which means that imports will be difficult.
Parts of basic infrastructure will continue to be in short supply. Consumer goods will continue to be outrageously priced out of reach of the common man.
With some international goodwill this can be circumvented to some extent by loans and gifts but the fundamental imbalance will likely remain for several years to come.
In all likelihood hospitals will continue to have dirty sheets and needles and TV will be something you watch outside Clicks and not in your living room.
The bottom line is you will likely live better as a dish washer in South Africa than a bookkeeper in Zimbabwe – no matter who is in power.
As depressing as this forecast is, it is better to face the dark reality with a steel heart than be disappointed when unrealistic expectations are washed away in the light of that new day.