Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps? (Special Michael Abramowitz/Juan Williams Journamalism Edition)
Khomeini's Victory

Obsidian Wings: Zimbabwe Melts Down

Thabo Mbeki and all the others who have sponsored Robert Mugabe's tenure as dictator of Zimbabwe should tremble in terror when they contemplate the prospect of standing before the Throne. Here's Hilzoy:

Obsidian Wings: Zimbabwe Melts Down: [B]ear in mind that all of these stories are from this month, and most are from the last ten days. It would be bad enough if all this had happened over a span of, say, a decade. But this is ten days. The main problem is hyperinflation.... Zimbabwe's hyperinflation, which saw levels persist stubbornly above 1,000 percent in 2006.... As a result of the skyrocketing cost of living, more or less everyone seems to be on strike. Today, for instance, the NYT has a story on Zimbabwe's doctors' strike.... Junior doctors at state hospitals now earn... less than $50 [a month].... The rural health workers who staff the public health system have gone on strike as well.... Drugs for HIV have become unaffordable. And now, to top it all off, cholera has struck Harare, probably because of the problems with the water supply.... University lecturers are already on strike, and teachers are about to join them.

Earlier this month an article in South Africa's Mail & Guardian had the charming headline: "Striking Power Workers Switch Off Harare". The one group of government employees that Robert Mugabe truly can't do without is not too happy either:

Government employees in the security sector, including police and soldiers, who get an average of about US$280 a month, are also reported to be unhappy. They are not allowed to go on strike, but top security officials have warned that if the government does not raise their salaries and improve conditions of service, their personnel may end up joining opposition forces to remove the ruling ZANU-PF party from power. The state-owned Standard newspaper reported on Sunday that many soldiers had left the Zimbabwe National Army over poor pay to take up posts as security guards or restaurant waiters in neighbouring South Africa and Botswana."...

And some workers in low-paying jobs can't afford to go to work:

"Jacqueline Munyaka (35) of Harare resigned from formal employment as a merchandiser in December. She told The Standard: "It was no longer making sense for me to travel to the city centre every day because transport alone would take up over three quarters of my salary then. I would have to scrounge for money for rentals, school fees and food from friends every month."...

Meanwhile, other catastrophes loom. Yesterday brought this news:

The Zimbabwe Electricity Authority (ZESA) has admitted to a nation already suffering sweeping and extended power cuts that it is broke, and things will get worse. (...) In some parts of Zimbabwe people have been without electricity for three months. The power utility's inability to keep users supplied is being caused by the unavailability of foreign currency to replace and repair outdated equipment; ZESA said it required US$30 million to repair equipment that had become inoperative.

Zimbabwe's economy has been in freefall in recent years, with the formal economy shrinking by 65 percent, agricultural production down by 50 percent, unemployment touching 80 percent and inflation running at 1,281 percent, the highest in the world, causing a slew of shortages, including food, fuel, medicines and foreign currency. (...)

With power no longer guaranteed, urban Zimbabweans are now using firewood as their main source of energy for cooking or heating, stripping the surrounding countryside and farms of their trees.


Zimbabwe's biggest sewage plant has broken down, sending tonnes of raw effluent into a major river and polluting the water supply of the capital, Harare, city authorities said on Monday. Harare's Firle sewage plant has been down since last week and requires at least Z$20-billion to fix, a huge burden for a country already in the grip of its worst economic crisis in decades.

Officials from the national water authority said half of the raw sewage from Harare -- a city of about 1,5-million -- was now discharged into a river that flows into the capital's main water reservoir, the state-owned Herald newspaper reported.."...

And then, of course, there's the looming famine:

Zimbabwe is facing a food deficit of hundreds of thousands of tonnes - a third of its requirements - an international monitoring agency warns. The Famine Early Warning System says the cereal balance sheet projects a shortfall in maize - the staple food - of some 850,000 tonnes. By December only 152,600 tonnes had been delivered, meaning widespread hunger looks set to continue.

The monitors say Zimbabwe's lack of foreign currency is a key problem.

It might be even worse, since agricultural workers are leaving Zimbabwe's farms because of low pay. No wonder even the wealthy have taken up urban farming....

[T]he Mugabe government, whose thuggish and idiotic policies are responsible for all this, is making it worse. The government has threatened the media, announced its intention to seize more white-owned farms, arrested thousands of people who are illegally panning for gold out of economic desperation, and threatened to carry out another round of its brutal slum clearances, in which poor people with nowhere else to go are forced from their homes, which are then bulldozed.

Think about it: this is about ten days' worth of bad news in Zimbabwe. At some point, something has to give.