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Eric Bloch Column

Pre-poll economic myths, actions intensify

By Eric Bloch

ALL indications show that government is rapidly gearing-up for the next parliamentary elections presently scheduled for March 2005 although it lies in the discretion of the president to determine

when the elections take place, provided that is so within five years of the last elections.

The elections could very well be at an earlier date. Almost all of government’s traditional actions to influence the outcome of the elections are being intensified.

They include endless vituperative abuse against perceived enemies abroad, with especial reference to the European Union in general, and Britain in particular.

When celebrating Zimbabwe’s Independence and again when addressing a gathering of the Council of Chiefs in Masvingo, the president vented his spleen against Tony Blair and his government. He did likewise when addressing Zimbabweans in South Africa. And he is vigorously supported by the state-controlled media who unhesitatingly comply with the directives of their masters, writing and broadcasting inconceivably far-fetched attacks which defy the imagination of even the most gullible.

One recent such propaganda “poppycock” was the allegation that Blair is launching a concerted campaign to discredit the government by promoting a series of high-power visits to Zimbabwe by leading African heads of state, including Presidents Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria, Joaquim Chissano of Mozambique and Festus Mogae of Botswana.

Allegedly, these visits will be designed to motivate the government to subject itself to the will of the United Kingdom. Does the Minister of Fiction, Fable and Myth really think that Zimbabwe’s newspaper readers and radio and television audiences are so naïve as to believe that all these heads of state are at the beck and call of Blair? I think not! More likely is that the minister feels that he must, albeit unsuccessfully and ludicrously, explain away the endeavours of these heads of state to have sanity restored to the Zimbabwean situation.

Other election-driven actions include the drive against corruption. That is commendable in principle! Corruption is a major contributory factor to the bankrupt state of Zimbabwe’s fiscus, to rampant hyperinflation, and to the decline of the economy.

When its focus is concentrated primarily upon a business community which, in order to keep business operational, resorted to the same currency procurement methods as did the state and its focus is also concentrated upon those who are either considered to be enemies of the political hierarchy, or as have been so blatant in their corruption that they cannot be ignored, the anti-corruption drive is devoid of credibility. That credibility would only exist if there were a concerted effort to determine the sources of untold wealth of thousands who had nought to their name in 1980 and, without any evident basis as to how accumulated, now possess immense assets. But spuriously suggesting to the populace that corruption is now being contained and that perpetrators of corrupt acts will receive their just desserts, is a good vote-getter!

Yet another of the acts of government to maximise electorate support is its continuing and increasing expropriation of farms and its recurrent promises to “new farmers” of plentiful supplies of inputs and of good producer prices. And the acquisitions continue to be justified by repeated dissemination of the lie that the lands had been “stolen” from Zimbabwe’s indigenous people.

All but government and its followers know this to be untrue, for 110 years ago, this country had a populace of less than 250 000, and most of the land was unoccupied. But billions of dollars spent on advertising, and repeated mouthings at political rallies were all targeted to brainwash the people. This is seen as a major harvester of votes.

Another attempt to maximise voter support is to create a racial divide. Despite promises at Independence, despite the fact that almost all whites who abhorred blacks have emigrated or died, and despite the fact that non-blacks are now a miniscule portion of the government continue with racial abuse against the Zimbabwean minority. They recurrently claim that whites continue to control the economy, which is falsehood in the extreme. They continue to claim that the minority seeks endlessly to disadvantage the majority. And they do so in disregard for the constitution which they claim to uphold, for that constitution specifically provides against racial discrimination and abuse.

Most recently, Zimbabwe witnessed such racial divisiveness in the rantings and ravings of the Minister of Education Aenias Chigwedere against local independent schools. Having forced temporary closure of numerous schools to the prejudice of the education of Zimbabwe’s youth (the nation’s greatest asset), he railed against them, alleging that they were white strongholds who deliberately raised fees to preclude blacks from attaining an education. The fact that none of the schools are operated for profit and gain, that all could justify their fee levels if operations were to be continued without a lowering of standards and virtually all had awaited ministry approval of the fees for a very extended period of time was irrelevant.

Chigwedere presumably wished to impress parents with his concern for them, thereby garnering voter support. He presumably wished to terminate the existence of independent schools for the quality of their education and opera-tions show government schools in a very bad light. He presumably also wished to expand his authoritarian empire by forcing all independent schools to lose their independence and be run by his ministry. But, in doing so, he ignored the fact that more than two-thirds of attendees at the independent schools are blacks, and that the teaching staff and the boards of governors were comprised of people of all races. A direct consequence of his actions has been a re-acceleration of the brain drain from Zimbabwe.

One of the biggest myths that government is marketing far and wide is that the economy is improving. Not only is that not so, but the opposite is the reality: The monetary policies introduced by the Governor of the Reserve Bank Gideon Gono have significantly slowed down the economic decline, but they could not, and have not, reversed it.

The economy is continuing to deteriorate but at a somewhat slower pace and that will inevitably continue to be so unless government is prepared to align fiscal policies with monetary policies, and unless government is prepared to discard those of its policies as are economically destructive. Those negative policies include the ongoing land grab, the alienation of international goodwill, tacit condonation of continuing corruption by the politically-influential, brainwashing of the youth through the youth brigades, nepotism, racial divisiveness, disregard for human rights, justice and law and order and contempt for the fundamentals of democracy.

In contradistinction to the contentions of economic recovery, Zimbabwe continues to suffer economic decline. Government supports its contentions by drawing attention to a fall in the rate of inflation from an all-time high of 622,8% to 593,8% (year-on-year), and that the month-on-month rate has also reduced. But it does not mention that, overall, prices rose by 27,63% in the first three months of 2004!

Government draws attention to its containment of the former parallel market and black currency exchange markets but refrains from recognition of the continuing inadequacy of foreign currency and the resulting shortages of fuel, industrial inputs, agricultural imported requirements, medications, and so forth. When alleging the economic recovery, government intentionally blinds itself to rising unemployment, business closures, decimation of agriculture and an almost total absence of investment — domestic or foreign. Zimbabweans can take it for granted that government will remain myopic to these circumstances for elections are just around the corner and therefore the populace must be fooled into believing that, that which is hell for them is actually paradise.

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