The tragedy of Zimbabwe’s policy making: Dokora’s education for Goats = Antoinette’s let them eat cake:

25 Apr

In Zimbabwe, the past few weeks have been animated with jokes and memes poking fun at Zimbabwe’s Minister of Education, Sport and Culture, Lazarus Dokora’s  pronouncements that school fees can be paid using goats. Indeed, these kinds of pronouncements could not have been imaginable but …, well it happened. In the aftermath Dokora attempted to sanitize the whole issue and noted that he only meant parents and guardians could sell their goats (read livestock) to pay for school fees. This pronouncement is problematic on several levels:  It gives a very confused view of how the Zimbabwean economy is run and what Zimbabweans value as currency; what the government policy is with regards to access to education and how this pronouncement affects peoples’ livelihoods especially those in Zimbabwe’s rural areas. I will focus on a simple matter with regards to how this seemingly laughable and innocent matter has the potential of disrupting the resilience of rural communities’ livelihoods all in the name of wanting to send their children to school.

That Zimbabwe strives to have a well-educated population is not in dispute. However, with the strained and poor economic conditions bedeviling the country it has not been easy for the government as the service provider and parents/guardians as the customers of this service to pay for the goods delivered. Government has tried all sorts of mechanisms under its Social Welfare grants and schemes but this never seems to be enough. Children dropping out of school or failing to write their final examinations now seems to be the order of the day in most parts of rural Zimbabwe and other urban areas. Faced with such challenges, citizens have tried to look up to the government for solutions through policy interventions. As sure as the sun would rise, government through Lazarus Dokora came up with the pronouncement that parents struggling to pay school fees for their children could use goats as a form of payment.

I would like to give the Honorable Minister, the benefit of the doubt and think that goats were a figurative expression. I’m trying to convince myself that he meant well as he has tried to defend himself in his latest pronouncements. However, I still find even his rejoinder problematic.

Since time immemorial, Zimbabweans have used livestock to engage in barter trade as well selling it for cash to pay for their other needs. Government and other civil society groups have had numerous projects of enhancing income in most rural families by ceding make and female goats, cows etc. so that they can rear them and increase their resilience to shocks and generally can look after themselves. Thus, the pronouncement by Dokora was and cannot be news at all. There was nothing genius about his pronouncement if for any reason he thought that he was saying something outside the box meant to relieve the pressure from parents who are currently struggling to pay school fees for their children.

In fact, Dokora’s pronouncement is dangerous to the extent that it encourages poor households to strip their assets so they can pay for school fees for their children. Taking the goats for example, it is a fact that most rural folk no longer have such assets after the last drought in 2015. Moreover, because of the economic hardships most families in the rural areas have sold these assets to cater for food needs mostly. So, it would be interesting to know from Dokora who exactly he will be referring to when he says these folks can use or sell their goats to pay for school fees. For those that have the goats (read livestock), I’m sure they get milk which is used to feed children etc. Selling off such vital sources of food to pay school fees does not look intelligent and exposes families to malnutrition unnecessarily. The same goats need to breed and produce more offspring before someone can think of selling them and making money out of them. This encouragement coming from such a high-powered government official is quite forceful as it is misleading. The real risk that those who have such livestock will be tempted to sell their “only” livestock to pay for their children’s school fees is too high.

Dokora and the government of Zimbabwe need to come up with a solid policy and sustainable action to deal with the rising problem of parents failing to pay for their children’s’ school fees. Such a cavalier mentality and attitude to the rights of millions of Zimbabwean children’s right to education by senior government officials is unwarranted and reckless. Dokora needs to realize that the problem is not simply a matter of raising money. The Zimbabwean economy has been in the doldrums for years in the meantime, depleting peoples’ sources of livelihoods and resilience to poverty. Pushing for such a policy written or otherwise will only lead to entrenched poverty among Zimbabweans especially those in rural teachers all in the name of trying to send their children to school. Dokora needs to think more about the possibility and dangers of a lost generation, that will lose out from school because their parents could genuinely not pay for their school fees is unimaginable.

This goat business, is not going work. Period. The pay for education with goats pronouncement is as arrogant as the supposed Marie Antoinette’s “let them eat cake” stupid pronouncement and as hair brained as Mugabe’s utterances in 2005 that if Zimbabweans didn’t have food they could as well eat potatoes.

 

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A very goodbye Yahya Jammeh – but – Exile not the answer though!

23 Jan

Yahya Abdul-Aziz Jemus Junkung Jammeh finally bade farewell grudgingly to the Gambia, ill acquired fame and ludicrous power on 21 January 2017 after 23 years in power at the helm of The Gambia. Aft…

Source: A very goodbye Yahya Jammeh -but – Exile not the answer though!

A very goodbye Yahya Jammeh -but – Exile not the answer though!

23 Jan

Yahya Abdul-Aziz Jemus Junkung Jammeh finally bade farewell grudgingly to the Gambia, ill acquired fame and ludicrous power on 21 January 2017 after 23 years in power at the helm of The Gambia. After his defeat by Adama Barrow in the 1 December 2016 elections and then “changing his mind” after announcing his defeat, ECOWAS, the African Union and the UN prevailed on him to vacate the Presidential seat. The man has since left for Equatorial Guinea to be under the protection of another African henchman, Obiang Mbasugo Nguema reportedly after having looted USD$11mln and several other unnamed valuables. Gambians are more than excited, Africa is relieved and the whole world is happy that this political transition has been bloodless. However, i am of the view that while sending Yahya Jammeh into exile will work in the short term it is detrimental in the long term.

Yahya Jammeh by being allowed into exile and even reading out his stepping down letter began a misdirected journey of him to manipulate the narrative about what exactly led to his defeat and being deposed from power. Clearly it was important for him to address the nation and whole world acceding defeat. However, the narrative that he made a decision on his own volition to vacate the Presidency and other such narratives should not be tolerated any further. He lost an election and he should have gone away quietly. Adama Barrow’s new government will need to quickly address this state of affairs and ensure that the true story is told to all and sundry at home and abroad.

The second issue concerns Yahya Jammeh’s potential to disrupt the politics and peace in the Gambia. While ECOWAS, the AU and the UN have promised to ensure the Gambia’s security, it is important that Yahya Jammeh is watched while he is on exile. The man led the country through force and brutality for a long time and it cannot be denied that some of his security forces might inevitably be still loyal to him. The potential to cause security problems engineered by Yahya Jammeh while in exile through his proxies must not be ruled out and thus the man needs to be watched as he comfortably sits reportedly in temporary exile in Equatorial Guinea.

Keeping Yahya Jammeh in the Gambia would have ensured that he would not be able to determine the future narrative of the Gambia’s politics through pronunciations such as the one he made just before he left.

Keeping Yahya Jammeh in the Gambia would have ensured that he would be allowed to witness change, democracy and a new form of government as an ordinary citizen without having to watch from outside the country.

Keeping Yahya Jammeh in the Gambia and not leave the country on his own terms would have ensured that he would not plunder and raid the bank as he did just before he left as reported.

Keeping Yahya Jammeh in the country would have ensured that he would have been held to account for any crimes and human rights abuses during his reign.

While it is a welcome relief that the henchman is gone, it is also very unfortunate that by sending Yahya Jammeh into exile, a precedent has been set for many an African dictators. It cannot be that whenever African Presidents are defeated in elections, they have to determine whether they have lost or not and usually in the end just refuse to leave the offices.

It will be interesting to see how the international community as well as the new government will handle issues around past human rights violations and economic plundering. The proposal to set up a Truth and Reconciliation Commission by Adama Barrow is most welcome. The continued talks and analysis that the political agreement signed for Yahya Jammeh to leave the country was only political and not binding on the Gambia is also a good sign.

Yahya Jammeh will need to be brought back to the Gambia to face the judicial system and account for human rights violations and economic plundering charges. While peace needs to be maintained and guaranteed in the Gambia, justice cannot be placed on the political alter in favor of Yahya Jammeh. By holding him to account, a deterrent message will be sent out to any other African President who might want to use the same shenanigans choosing to “change their minds” when defeated in elections.

Zimbabwe’s “Bondnotes” crisis: The questions that now need to be taken to Afreximbank and Aliko Dangote’s doors

13 Oct

Date: 13/10/2016

To: Dr. Benedict Okey Oramah (https://afreximbank.com/dr-benedict-okey-oramah-president/): President: African Export – Import Bank (Afreximbank) 72 (B) El-Maahad El-Eshteraky Street – Heliopolis, Cairo 11341, Egypt

Re: Request for information on the Afreximbank $200 million loan offered to Zimbabwe and subsequent cancellation

The above matter refers.

Allow us to introduce ourselves. We are Zimbabweans deeply concerned about your recent dealings with the Government of Zimbabwe led by one President Robert Mugabe. We write to you in peace and we would like you and your institution to lend us an attentive ear. Our apologies if any of our language might seem disparaging. Be assured Sir, that we do not intend to do so. Anyway, we will get into the details of the reasons we are writing you.

Firstly, we are informed through feedback meetings held with ourselves and the Zimbabwe Reserve Bank Governor, Dr. John Panonetsa Mangudya as well as other public pronouncements by the Zimbabwe Minister of Finance, Mr. Patrick Chinamasa that you have agreed to loan the Zimbabwean government USD$200 million. The details of the loan arrangements remain hidden and classified but we are told that the money will be used to secure an equal value of 200 million so called Bondnotes that will effectively become the new trading currency in Zimbabwe.

Secondly, we would like to note that we have asked the Zimbabwe government on several occasions through letters, public meetings, and social media and in person but we have failed to get any satisfactory answers about the conditions of this loan. Instead we have been told that the information is confidential and will be treated as such between yourselves and the Government of Zimbabwe. If you go onto your Afreximbank twitter account, or generally on twitter you will notice how your bank has become so (un)popular in Zimbabwe and internationally because of this USD $200 million loan to Zimbabwe. Several Zimbabweans have written to your bank on social media and they have not received any responses from yourselves. Fair and fine, you and the Government of Zimbabwe might refuse to respond but we would like to set a few issues clear with your bank before your bank relaxes and believes that all is well with regards this loan to ZimbabweWe are of the view that your bank has misdirected itself and gone against its Mission Statement and rather is abusing the “profit oriented” approach to its business and utterly disregarded the “socially responsible financial investment institution” that you describe yourselves as by awarding this loan to the Zimbabwe government. It is in our humble view irresponsible of Afreximbank knowing fully well and having seen on international media the resistance to the said Bond Notes that you continue to be quiet and not respond to Zimbabweans’ concerns. We are now of the firm view that your bank is only interested in profit making and will do so at any cost. However, we the people of Zimbabwe refuse that position and are making it clear to you now!

We would like to warn you that you are entering into a bad investment deal by lending this current Zimbabwe government such an amount of money. You can be rest assured that we will not be sitting idle while our country is auctioned away by this government and allow this our generation and our children to be saddled with President Mugabe’s ill- informed debts funded by institutions like yours. We are Zimbabweans and we know what we are talking about! You can save us the trouble of trying to explain any legal niceties about international treaties and so on. We are fully aware of the implications. However, we would like to warn you that we will when the times comes, scrutinize each and every loan that this government has borrowed in the last 5 years with Afreximbank. If indeed we will find any loans ill – gotten and not having been used wisely we will certainly refuse and recommend that any new Zimbabwe government to dishonor such loans.

Your bank and its shareholders cannot purport not to know the socio – political and economic situation in Zimbabwe at the present moment. Definitely, your regional office based at Eastgate Mall in Harare must have briefed you and continues to do so on the state of affairs in Zimbabwe. We are of the firm belief that Afreximbank and its shareholders are acting in no less than criminal and exploitative ways to get Zimbabwe hooked onto bad loans in the name of assisting the Government.

In addition and to our dismay, we are fully aware that some of your shareholders and Aliko Dangote in particular who we greatly respect as a progressive African brother and father is also unwittingly trying to benefit from this sorry situation unethically. We know that Mr. Dangote acquired a substantial amount of shareholding on 30 May 2016 in Afreximbank and thus has keen interests in how the bank performs. As you and ourselves know Mr. Dangote has to make investments all over Africa and he has been making these overtures in Zimbabwe as well. Is it a coincidence as well that at the same time that he is making inroads with his Dangote Group in Zimbabwe your bank is also making unbridled offers to bail out the Zimbabwe government financially. Could it be that, your Afreximbank or even Mr. Dangote himself is preparing a red carpet for his businesses in Zimbabwe by giving the economy a false sense of liquidity? Unfortunately, we will give you free advice and note that your bank is making or might have already made a wrong move that will cost you dearly by giving Zimbabwe this loan.

Mr. Oramah Sir, you might wonder and be less amused by this letter and our actions. However, we have to let you know that we cannot allow anymore this country, this Zimbabwe, the land of our forefathers, our fathers, ours and our future children to be continuously run down by unwise decisions which border on criminality, senselessness and pure selfishness. This means therefore that we have to guard our country from such bad decisions and deals as the ones the Government of Zimbabwe is making with your bank now. We respectfully ask you to reconsider and immediately halt any financial assistance to the current Zimbabwe Government until us as Zimbabweans have sorted out our internal problems. We believe strongly that by your continued purported efforts to assist this government you are indirectly funding our misery, torture and desecration of our country by the current Government of Zimbabwe.

Our demands are quite simple and very clear. Afreximbank must be accountable to the peoples of Africa where the bank invests. In this case it is the people of Zimbabwe. We have rights and freedoms to access information on deals conducted by our government and external parties. Zimbabwe has serious problems with freedoms of expression and access to government information. Your bank cannot be found to be aiding and abetting such manipulation of peoples’ right. Your bank cannot purport to be oblivious of a situation as is obtaining in Zimbabwe and continue to hold your bank in high esteem. We need information from Afreximbank on what kind of deal you have reached with the Government of Zimbabwe. In addition, we need to know what the interest rates are, how long the loan will be for and other related information. Furthermore, we implore you to do the right thing and withdraw this USD $200 million from your client – The Government of Zimbabwe. The purpose for which they have asked the money is not in sync with what the Zimbabwean people want. It is more destructive and will take our country back to the days of strife and hunger that was marked by hyperinflation running into millions. The Bondnotes are just another back door way of the Zimbabwe government to reintroduce the local currency. We do not necessarily have any problems in having our own currency but you must understand as a financial person that the current situation in Zimbabwe does not allow that.

We will be waiting to hear from you and your bank Sir. In the event that we do not hear from yourselves in reasonable time which we will allow at two weeks from the date of this letter, we the people of Zimbabwe will definitely be calling on your offices in Harare; Cairo, Lagos, Nairobi and Abidjan to demand a response by any means necessary.

Sincerely

We the people of Zimbabwe.

Ends://

The art of bathing in dirty water: Joice Mujuru and land compensation in Zimbabwe

12 Oct

The theatrics to take over after the geriatric President Mugabe kicks the bucket or calls it quits (honestly I don’t see him leaving office on his own volition anytime soon) seem to be reaching a c…

Source: The art of bathing in dirty water: Joice Mujuru and land compensation in Zimbabwe

The art of bathing in dirty water: Joice Mujuru and land compensation in Zimbabwe

12 Oct

The theatrics to take over after the geriatric President Mugabe kicks the bucket or calls it quits (honestly I don’t see him leaving office on his own volition anytime soon) seem to be reaching a crescendo in opposition quarters. What with all the drama last week from former Zimbabwe Vice President Dr. Joice Mujuru when she announced that she met with the white man whose farm they grabbed or got “reallocated to” by ZANU PF when her late husband was still alive. At the least I find the whole thing unfunnily theatrical and at most cheap propaganda trying to sway the international community (read white people) to believe she is a repentant former ZANU PF zealot. I am convinced that her theatrics were not even meant for the general Zimbabwean audience. This is just trying to take a shower in dirty water, IT CAN’T!

I am not getting it. Joice Mujuru says she wants to compensate this man, this former white farmer whose land she alleges they “grabbed”. My understanding is that ZANU PF policies and laws that were enacted at the time the land was taken from most white farmers and redistributed to black people converted all that land into state property. So if the land belongs to the state, how then will she be able to compensate this white farmer when the land does not belong to him and purportedly never belong to him?

Maybe, Joice Mujuru wants people to believe that she wants to work out an arrangement that she will compensate him for “developments” made on the farm. Maybe she wants to compensate the former “landowner” for his machinery and or crops they “looted” at the time. That would in a sense be understandable but still it would be interesting to see how they will reach an agreement on the compensation rates. Of course, whoever lost his property would have an inventory but I’m really interested in seeing how the values for these properties/machinery etc. will be calculated.

This same Joice Mujuru who pleaded bankruptcy in recent court processes after her alleged step – children stepped in to claim their inheritance from their dead father is the same person who is claiming she can compensate people? Okay?

Cheap, very cheap, miscalculated propaganda I say!

One might want to see racism in these questions. However, I am of the opinion that the land question that Joice Mujuru wants to fiddle with cannot be used as a backbone for her attempts to get back into politics. There is no question that the majority of former white farm owners inherited from their ancestors this land that was stolen from black communities that were in Zimbabwe at that time. Joice Mujuru now wants to ride on a charade that seeks to trivialize this matter. She of all the people cannot forget that the liberation struggle was fought for among others to retain this same land from the erstwhile colonizers.

That ZANU PF is rogue and could have made mistakes in handling the land question does not mean that Joice Mujuru can try to downplay the need for land to be repossessed and be utilized by black Zimbabweans. The argument that white people were “very good’ and were good farmers is just unacceptable hogwash that should be told as folktales in faraway lands. It is a fact that most white families benefited from cheap bank loans, protected markets and so on such that they became “profitable farmers’. The new farmers in Zimbabwe who have been given that same land need to be given the same chance. There is nothing special about being white and neither is anything wrong with being black.

If there is one issue that will break Joice Mujuru’s attempts at the Presidency in Zimbabwe’s future it will be the land question and how she proposes to deal with the land redistribution process from the controversial “Third Chimurenga”. There are questions of principle on the much delayed and botched land redistribution process as well as questions about black empowerment and the need to possibly compensate the white folks who lost “their farms”. For her to conflate and confuse these issues with her attempts to renter politics is just mere political suicide and puerile propaganda which will not fly or win her the hearts of Zimbabweans! In any case, it is not these folks who will vote in 2018, if her recent theatrics are about looking for votes.

Compensation! Compensation for what purpose, to who and how much is the question she has to answer!

Diaspora Remittances: To send money or not to Zimbabwe?

1 Aug

So another debate is raging on the “controversial Zimbabwe social media” (LMAO) over the proposed shutdown on diaspora remittances to Zimbabwe from 3 – 10 August 2016. Mixed feelings really from different quarters all with genuine concerns. Others have opposed this move arguing that those who receive the funds in Zimbabwe will starve and those in favor are arguing that the remittances are propping up the ZANU PF regime and have to be blocked for a while.

There is no doubt that remittances serve a huge role in sustaining people in Zimbabwe. However, I am of the view that we need to put emotions aside and reevaluate how we are propping the ZANU PF Government through this diaspora money. I will argue in support of the 10 day shutdown of remittances to Zimbabwe and propose one or two solutions for discussion.

  • What is the message being sent here? This call for a remittances shutdown should is sending clear messages to the ZANU PF government to change its ways. The message is indirectly being sent to the Zimbabwe business community for being overly quiet when their customers are constantly faced by a ruthless and uncaring ZANU PF prevailing over a decaying economy. Indeed, those who are receiving the diaspora money should not take it for granted and think that its free money which can be used to buy from Choppies or even those Gushungo yoghurts and milk or some of these funny funny petrol stations! How dare you use hard earned to buy from a shop whose owner sleeps in a $1 000/day hotel room at the taxpayers’ expense?
  • The fear of beneficiaries starving in Zimbabwe: This fear is acknowledged and should not be taken lightly. However, we also need to acknowledge that not all the money coming into Zimbabwe is meant for food. There are people who send their savings home; there are people who are investing in Zimbabwe in construction, business and other ventures. These can wait; if the ZANU PF government is screwing you anyway, through corrupt central and local government officials what is the point. These people need money to run these institutions, it is not as if they get money from other sources to keep their well-oiled patronage systems running. A disruption of 10 days income would make them think seriously about their behaviors.
  • Is the ZANU PF Government playing its part in generating funds for the country: There is a very simple fact that 20% of the value of Zimbabwe is propped up by big and small monies sent by hardworking Zimbabweans from South Africa, USA, Canada, Australia, UK and many other countries. This is not unusual as remittances are now being counted as part of the solution to many an African government’s liquidity problems. Is it not scandalous though that Zimbabwe can afford to lose USD$15 billion worth of potential from diamonds through corruption and misgovernance and actually have to depend on such diaspora remittances for 20% of its economy? Imagine how dire the situation would have been if these diaspora funds were not brought back to Zimbabwe. Without these diaspora funds they certainly would think twice. Think about it!
  • No real value for money, anyway in Zimbabwe: The prevailing unstable political and economic environment in Zimbabwe largely caused by ZANU PF’s bad governance, offers no real value for money from the diaspora and even the funds earned locally. Overpricing and low quality products and services form the order of the day all the time. Withholding funds would send a very clear message to service and goods providers that they need to change their ways and provide value for money. The argument from the business sector is usually that they are constrained by the political and economic environment but they remain quiet because they know Zimbabweans will always come to buy. Starve them and they will also push the ZANU PF government to act. Let’s face it, your mum in Zimbabwe is sick and you send her money to a local hospital in Zimbabwe only to be told that there are no drugs and yet you would have paid the full fee. Solution: Send the money to South Africa, Botswana or even India and she will get treated there for even half the price.

Take universities for example, it’s a well – known fact that most private universities are now charging full fees. Why bother sending your brothers, sisters and children there. These institutions are collecting full fees which are now masking the real problems this ZANU PF government has unleashed on its citizens. The ZANU PF government now does not worry about how its lecturers and employees will be paid because they know students in the public institutions will pay anyway using the same diaspora funds. Look at it this way, sending your relative to another university outside would not be bad after all, would it? While they are busy looking for the lost $15 billion, your relative can be going to school somewhere else and you can be getting value for your hard earned money. Please don’t even start on the issue of patriotism. If they want to talk about that, they must start governing properly first.

  • Boycotting ZANU PF run businesses: I have on a number of occasions questioned the morality of politicians running businesses that supply public goods. I have come to an agreement with myself that there is nothing wrong with this as long as the businesses are transparent and do not get unfair advantages. The current situation where ZANU PF officials have positioned themselves in key service delivery institutions where they arrogantly keep prices high producing substandard products or unfairly benefitting from unscrupulous tax loopholes cannot be tolerated one moment further. So if diaspora funds were withheld even for those proposed 10 days coupled with clear information to families on the ground on what companies to avoid; what products not to buy and who to engage for services it would go a long way in sending very clear messages to this rogue government.

Talking temporary solutions

  •  So, a solution would be to send only the bare minimum for humanitarian purposes this time if need be. There is no need to be emotive about this. The ZANU PF government is screwing people whether they have the money or not anyway, but what is a sure way to deal with them is to withhold that which they need the most to keep them floating, and that is the diaspora money. Diaspora remittances have now become oxygen and blood for the arrogant ZANU PF government saving it from the shame and humiliation of failing to look after its own people while they gallivant and plunder national resources.
  •  Find other ways of money to Zimbabwe eventually not necessarily as cash or through the bank: So faced with a situation like the one we have in Zimbabwe, one solution would be just to ensure the money does not go through the formal banking system or the traditional money transfer agencies directly to Zimbabwe. There are a number of ways that can be done. Batter trading is one simple way. Exchange good and services where you can. No need to give these people unnecessary money. Pay for goods and services to accounts in neighboring countries. They will call it externalization or whatever but so what? Sending goods, clothes, medication are some simpler ways. Don’t be afraid, there is a threshold that can taxed, not everything.

My two cents!

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