No quick fix

14 09 2018

“It’s one of the best shows we’ve had for a very long time” commented Merv as we walked into the show. He should know; he’s bee a stalwart of the Zimbabwe Orchid Society for many years. I had to agree. I do like to visit the biannual orchid show at the Mukuvisi Woodlands park in eastern Harare when I can and in the few years that I’ve been a regular visitor it’s the most spectacular show I’ve seen. It’s also nice to escape the depressing state of the nation for an hour or so and pretend that in some respects at least – we are normal.

Not much has happened since the election and in fact some aspects of the new government led by ED Mnangagwa are decidedly familiar. There a lots of new faces in the cabinet. The minister of finance really is an economist, the Minister of Sport is Olympic medalist Kirsty Coventry and the Minister of Health does not have the medical qualifications that he claims.

Professor Mtuli Ncube (a graduate of Oxford no less), the finance minister, is on record as saying he wants to clear Zimbabwe’s foreign debt as quickly as possible and wants to reintroduce the Zimbabwe dollar. There is no time limit specified for the latter – a wise decision. The last version of the Zimbabwe dollar was officially abandoned in February 2009 in favor of the US dollar when the former became worthless due to the second highest inflation in history. I really don’t see the point of this; it will simply replace our infamous bond dollar with another of a different name. The black market will still exist and nobody will trust the new currency such is the level of distrust in the system. Some say we should adopt the South African rand being that South Africa is our neighbor and biggest trading partner. However, there are simply enough rands to support the Zimbabwe economy and it is by no means clear that South Africa will agree. Of course a currency must be based on something which in our case is our exports as the manufacturing base collapsed with the Zimbabwe dollar and is still moribund. Export horticulture is the hot ticket to get into but takes some years to build up export crops and recover the farms neglected under ex-president Mugabe’s ruinous land redistribution policy. No quick fix there. Mining, another mainstay of the economy is also down and will take some time to build up pending investment from outside the country. It was also not immune from Mugabe’s policies – one of my foreman’s sons did his accounting attachment at a German run graphite mine in the north east of the country which was shut down for some time last year because of political “issues”.

At the last count 28 people have died from the current cholera outbreak – mainly in Harare. Such is the state of the economy that the finance minister has launched a crowd funding exercise to raise money to treat the outbreak. It is unlikely to have a lot of success given the controversy over new vehicles for ministers and the public’s mistrust of all things governmental.

Obadiah Moyo, the new health minister, whose claims to various medical qualifications have been questioned has certainly got his work cut out with the new cholera outbreak. What is certain is that he did successfully run the Chitungwiza Hospital for several years. Someone I know went there last year and said that although it was threadbare it was clean and functional. Perhaps we should give him the chance to prove himself. Good luck to him – he’ll need it.

Kirsty Coventry has several Olympic swimming medals to her name but I’m not sure how that qualifies her to be the Minister of Sport. Cricket, once a source of national pride, is in disarray after the recent firing of the entire coaching team for not getting the playing team into the World Cup. A crucial match was lost due to rain causing a complicated, and some say unfair, formula being implemented to calculate the winner. Corruption is rife and players are demoralized. And that’s just cricket. Good luck to her too.

Droughts are a perennial problem in southern Africa and it looks like the coming rainy season (November to March) is at best going to be erratic. An el NiƱo weather condition is nearly a 70% likelihood for our summer – not a good sign. At our house in the suburb of Mt Pleasant we have not had municipal water since we moved in just over 18 months ago. We had our borehole tested earlier in the year and were told it could handle 900 litres an hour – adequate for domestic purposes. A tank have been installed to catch water from the washing machine and another 5,000 litre rainwater tank is planned to add to the two others we already have. The borehole is only 40m deep which is shallow by Harare standards so we are not confidant it will last especially as I see a lot of green verges being heavily irrigated further up our road. Fortunately our hole is 180mm diameter, large enough to get a drill down if we need to go deeper assuming there is water to be found by drilling deep.

We visited my sister in June in the USA – She lives in Spokane in Washington State. A friend of hers asked me if we in Zimbabwe thought the USA “crazy” – she was referring to the Trump administration. I replied that we were just to busy trying to survive in Zimbabwe to view the Trump administration as anything more than entertainment. No, we are in this for the long term – no quick fix to this particular mess.

Only in Zimbabwe

13 12 2008

I’ve probably used this title before but sometimes thinking of snappy titles is a bit beyond my limited artistic skills. Whatever…

I got to the checkout till yesterday having made sure that my purchases were close to a whole number of US dollars. The alternative is to stand in another queue and get a credit note for the change which the supermarket does not have. Standing in queues is not my strong point though. I’d even picked up a packet of chewing gum in the checkout queue but there was still a bit of change. Help was at hand though and the till operator reached down and picked up a chewy bar worth the outstanding 15c – or thereabouts. No doubt she had other “denominations” at hand.

I see that between there being “no cholera” (according to Bob) and the reality of a massive outbreak we are now blaming it all on the British! Check out this link for the full report. It beggars belief that anyone, including the deputy minister involved, would actually believe this drivel but there you go; blame it on someone else no matter how daft the reasoning.

In the news

2 12 2008

Zimbabwe is in the news. That’s nothing new of course but the coverage of the cholera outbreak is unusually intense. Apparently the health authorities in Musina just over the border in South Africa are struggling to keep up with influx of infected refugees. The BBC also reports that the deputy Health Minister has said that nobody who is ill will be turned away – the South African constitution guarantees that they will be treated. Of course they will be treated – they don’t want an outbreak in South Africa!

Just about all the government hospitals have closed here. I verified this with the nurse who took blood from me today. The Parirenyatwa which is a big teaching hospital in Harare closed 3 weeks ago and the Harare Hospital about a week before that. If you don’t have the funds to use one of the private clinics then you can always try one of the mission hospitals which are still functioning and failing that… Well, you are going to die. She shrugged philosophically. And this is all due to a lack of funds. My blood was destined to go to one of the private clinics. I drove past the Pary (as its abbreviation is known) on the way out and indeed it looked deserted. The perpetrators of this policy of deliberate neglect will probably get away with it though in my opinion they are as guilty as Slobodan Milosevic for crimes against humanity.