In case you haven’t heard, Zimbabwe is collapsing.

Their currancy is worthless: inflation was “only” 3000 percent last month, but last week, it lost half it’s worth in one day. Yup. Paper money will do that if you print money to pay your bills.
Well, of course you haven’t heard. Just another African country going to the dogs, ho hum…let’s place the story on page 28…

Even last week’s UN report on refugees was mainly about the Middle East refugees (hint hint Blame Bush…was the context). When they said the largest refugee numbers were 1.6 million from Afghanistan followed by Iraq and Sudan(Dafur) I was puzzled. You see, about four million Zimbabweans have fled their homes in the last few years. But most are not in refugee camps, but working or living with extended family members that work, mainly in South Africa. And they are sending money home to feed their families.

The health system is in collapse: the hospitals lack drugs, and the doctors and nurses’ pay is too low. The doctors went on strike, which is now over, but many can’t afford to go to work, so the government is trying to arrange transportation for them.m.

Last year’s Operation “cleanup” dispersed much of the suburban small shopkeepers who had opposed the government in the last election. Most went to their ancestral villages (numbers range from 70 000 upward)  and some remain homeless or living with relatives nearby. Nor were all the buildings destroyed run by thugs and criminals, as Mugabe claimed: the cleanup also destroyed Sister Patricia’s HIV clinic and Sister Winnie’s convent/training center for women. Can’t discriminate you know.

And, although the drought is over, the lack of good seed, fertilizer, petrol for pumps and tractors, etc. have lowered the amount of food being grown, which is bad news given that the large white owned farms were confiscated and given away, partly to those who worked on the farm, which is good but these families often were left without the money or help to use modern techniques to raise crops so essentially produced little surplus. But much of the confiscated land went to government cronies who didn’t know much about running a large farm.

Confiscating farm land run by “europeans” (many British citizens who migrated, but also many Boers who haven’t lived in Europe since 1650 but are racially caucasion) hasn’t endeared Mugabe in the heart of Tony Blaire, so Mugabe blames Blaire for all his problems. But no one who knows anything about reality thinks there is much truth behind Mugabe’s rants.

You see, Mugabe has a long history of moving against his enemies. His party wins elections by giving food aid only to villages that voted for him–and he insists that NGO food aid is funneled through his government offices.

Last month, an opposition prayer meeting was broken up and many of the opposition have been arrested on and off, or harassed. Many have left the country. Even pastors whose sermons were construed as anti government have been picked up and questioned.

None of this is new, of course. But things are coming to a head. Barter, money sent in by relatives working abroad, and black market foreign currency is how things are now done.

The official rate for $1 is 250 Zimbabwe dollars but on the black market $1 can net you more than 40,000 Zimbabwe dollars.

So what now?

A coup was disarmed last week. South Africa’s Mbeki is trying to persuade the President to end his rule and allow next year’s elections to be free. But so far nothing has happened.

So the once prosperous country with a well educated populace, farm exports, gold mines, and an active industrial base is now a basket case.

Another triumph of Marxist economics.

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Nancy Reyes is a physician living in the rural Philippines. Her website on African problems is MakaipaBlog 

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