Fire Season – Again

19 08 2008

Driving to work this afternoon I noticed a substantial number of people in the old soya land between home and the nursery. I was quite surprised that there was anything left to pick up (combine harvesters are not perfect) as the land was harvested in May and people had been going through it intermittently since then. Then I realized the cause for the resurge of interest; there had been a fire last night along the edge of the land and they must have been concerned that the trash (and fallen beans) might burn.

Yes, it’s fire season again and for the past three weeks or so the landscape has been dotted with palls of smoke of varying intensities. Africa burns and no more so than in southern Africa with its alternating wet season and dry seasons that provide ample material to burn and excellent conditions to burn it. The dry usually coincides with the windy time of year which of course really gets things going.

That people should find it necessary to scavenge old soya lands for beans is not that surprising. The new currency is now a twentieth of its introductory value at the beginning of the month and more and more places are trading in only exchangeable currency (SA rand or US dollars). What food there is is extortionately expensive and I was chatting to someone in town today who informed me that bus fares to Bulawayo and Mutare are increasingly being demanded in rand. It’s quite illegal of course but nobody seems too phased by it. Unfortunately my business is hardly essential so demanding real money is unlikely to do more than drive customers away. It does not help that our seedlings are priced at all of 28 USD for 1000! We are, after all, a wholesale nursery and most of the customers sell their produce for Zim dollars so are very unlikely to pay real money.

It is perhaps not surprising that Bob is unwilling to share power with Morgan. Habits must be pretty well entrenched after 28 years of kleptocracy. The MDC appears unwilling to give any more concessions than they already have because they know that all they have to do now is wait for the economy to really crash. I have it on excellent authority that the one remaining significant forex generator, ZimPlats (South African run platinum mine) is out of production for some time. Apparently routine maintenance of the furnace went wrong when an electrode dislodged and fell through the base of the furnace putting it out of action for some months to come. Imagine a country with only one significant source of foreign currency (the diamonds in Manicaland don’t count as “income” – it’s mostly outgoing)!

Maybe this was behind the new law that allows the electricity supply authority to apply a licence fee (in US dollars too) on all owners of electric generators. You may have spotted the irony that we are being charged to do what they cannot; supply electricity. My friend Terry reckons that they don’t have the manpower to enforce it but it does potentially carry a penalty of up to 6 months in jail for non-compliance. I suspect that it is not constitutionally sound but we’ll have to wait and see if anyone is prepared to challenge it.

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