THE NAIROBI NOTEBOOK
What is really going on in Zim
Newton Kanhema
Published: 01-SEP-03

I have just returned from Zimbabwe and I what I experienced seems wildly I different from what I have been reading in the media. It seems there is a trend within the media to peddle myths about the situation in Zimbabwe. I have been following news about this country religiously and the image that has been created seem like a collective conspiracy to lie with impunity. I choose here to call for a reality check and break away from this irresponsible and partisan reporting. The impression out there is that Mugabe is under tremendous pressure and could be kicked out of office any minute from now. The simple fact is that he is not under threat of being forced out of power tomorrow. The opposition is weakening by the week.

There is an impression that because of shortage of forex supermarket shelves are empty but again this is far from the truth. There have been several reports that there will be bloodshed on Harare streets but since pre-2002 election such bloodshed has not occurred. There have been reports of a civil war but no one is taking arms. Wishful thinking has become reality in many publications.

First let us agree that the country is undergoing tremendous economic hardship. But several reports in almost all media that more than half the population is starving have been an exaggerated. I have been waiting to see the goring faces of starving people like we saw in Ethiopia in the 1980s. Could it be I missed the reports? There is definitely hardships but not starvation. The new farmers have been reported as a complete failure and the majority of people are not receiving food aid and one wonders where the food is coming from especially when the Government does not have forex to import the food.

The amazing resilience of the people of this country has been completely and deliberately ignored and success stories from Zimbabwe are now a taboo to write about. There is a fascinating story of a vibrant black middle class emerging in

Wishful thinking has become reality in many publications

Zimbabwe. Certainly something is going on beyond the reported shortages. What is certainly true is that black empowerment is not a myth or mere talk. It is a reality. Some have successfully built business empires stretching from Casablanca to Cape Town headguartered in a country supposedly in 'dire straights'.

Blacks own and run successful banks and financial institutions and in the process these new bank owners are lending money to their friends, neighbours and relatives and there seem to be genuine transfer of wealth. Those who have borrowed are servicing their debt. And banks are posting profits.

While there is a bouquet of reasons of why the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange is performing well, this stock exchange is listed as the best performing in the world followed by Russia.

This middle class is young, black, educated and confident. Property is not being sold in US$ and sellers are not accepting local currency, as much as 80 percent of property sales are done in hard currency.

There are reports that only Mugabe's cronies are capitalising on the shortages and living large. But when one looks at the number of imported Mercs on the Harare streets one begins to wonder whether being a citizen of Zimbabwe is simply eguivalent to being a crony. I am still struggling to find an explanation on how a country undergoing an economic crisis becomes a nation that drives more Mercedes-Benz cars per capita on the continent including South Africa and Egypt. One cannot buy a car on higher purchase/loan in Zimbabwe and therefore every one of these cars is fully paid for.

I want to assume that the Zimbabwe issue is more complex than just identifying the bad guy and condemn him and choosing the good guy and praise him. Most of the media seem to enjoy taking a simplistic view of what is taking place. Perpetuating a one sided view which predicts doom which fails to materialise remotely is simply advocacy which I thought was bad journalism. I want to assume that media strives to reflect reality. Or could I be dreaming?

While my observations are not scientific but so are most of the myths all over the shore but at least mine are a piece of the action and a side that is part of Zimbabwe which add up to a whole and need to be reflected.





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