Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Zimbabwe sinks lower

The ultra-slow motion disaster that is Zimbabwe continues. It remains a horrible fascination for me to watch as Tyrant in Chief Bob Mugabe slowly and inexorably grinds his once prosperous and healthy nation into dust.

The IHT has the latest round-up of grim news, along with a glimmer of hope: his own party is beginning to make noises of disapproval.
For close to seven years, Zimbabwe's economy and quality of life have been in slow, uninterrupted decline. They are still declining this year, people there say, with one notable difference: The pace is no longer so slow.

Indeed, Zimbabwe's economic descent has picked up so much speed that President Robert Mugabe, the nation's ruler for the past 27 years, is starting to lose support from parts of his own party.

In recent weeks, the national power authority has warned of a collapse of electrical service. A breakdown in water treatment has set off a new outbreak of cholera in the capital, Harare. All public services were cut off in Marondera, a regional capital of 50,000 in eastern Zimbabwe, after the city ran out of money to fix broken equipment. In Chitungwiza, just south of Harare, electricity is supplied but four days a week. [...]

In the past eight months, "there's been a huge collapse in living standards," Iden Wetherell, an editor of the weekly Zimbabwe Independent, said in a telephone interview, "and also a deterioration in the infrastructure — in standards of health care, in education. There's a sort of sense that things are plunging." [...]
The cause of the latest crisis? Hyperinflation. It currently runs over 1,200%/month. Not to worry, though, Mugabe--in a stunning King Canute moment--has decared inflation to be illegal.
The central bank's latest response to these problems, announced this week, was to declare inflation illegal. From March 1 to June 30, anyone who increases prices or wages will be arrested and punished. Only a "firm social contract" to end corruption and restructure the economy will bring an end to the crisis, said the reserve bank governor Gideon Gono.

The speech by Gono, a favorite of Mugabe, was broadcast nationally. In central Harare, the last half was blacked out by a power failure. [...]

Many experts now believe that Zimbabwe faces a political showdown within months, as the governing bodies of ZANU-PF wrangle over whether to grant Mugabe an extended term or to put less-radical members of the ruling party in power. Few expect a democratic revolution; the one rival party, the Movement for Democratic Change, is riven by splits and lacks a competent leader. [....]
As is typical, only the threat of losing power (perhaps through revolution) is the most effective goad in such corrupt states.