A thin line

12 07 2017

Mike is multi-talented. He’s been working on the electrics of the cottage so that we can get it functional for renting out, but he can fix computers too and turn his hand to just about anything else; painting, welding you name it. But he’s struggling for work and even had to borrow some diesel off me the other day as he was running out and didn’t have any cash to put fuel in his car.

Smart has been doing tiling and minor building work for us. He’s pleasant, hard-working and also broke. Unlike a lot of builders here he does ALL the work himself; mixing cement, carrying the bricks and of course the building.

Nearly everyone is struggling to get by in Zimbabwe none more so than the artists. So this Sunday I went along to the art fair and expo at the Mukuvisi Woodlands – a nature reserve within the confines of the city which has a selection of non-dangerous game, horse rides, walks and is a great place to go and relax watch the birds and enjoy the animals. Not surprisingly they are also struggling, so it was a good opportunity to go along and lend support.

Works by Daryl Nero, Arthur Azvedo, Helen Leiros and Lyn Barrie were on display (main boards L to R)

It was not a big event but a lot of my favorite artists were on display. I cannot think a lot of money was made but a few paintings had been sold and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves. Most works were well beyond my budget but I did pick up a couple of small pieces by Roseanne Tunmer that my wife could appreciate (she doesn’t share my taste in art). I heard Roseanne quip as I was paying that she’d be very pleased if someone stole some of her work!

A lion face in progress by Kelli Barker

Heron and tortoise by Roseanne Tunmer, pods by Wayne Stutchbury

Of course not everyone in Zimbabwe is struggling. The kleptocrats who rule the country are very well off thank you and seem quite unconcerned that their shenanigans are widely reported in the independent press. Those who can are helping themselves whilst the rest of us get by – or not.

Some, such as Grace Mugabe – the president’s wife, have millions but don’t use them. She has recently laid claim to the Mazowe dam (reservoir) denying all-comers access to a livelihood or recreation. Local water authority engineers who came to inspect a leak in the nearly 100 year-old wall were chased off in favor of Chinese engineers.

The much vaunted command agriculture scheme has been shown to be a massive money loser . For the uninitiated it is a scheme whereby funding has been acquired (some $500m) to allow mostly resettled farmers who have no access to funds (they have no title for the land they are on and therefore no collateral) the ability to grow maize and solve the nation’s chronic food shortage. The government supplies the inputs in the form of seed, fertilizers and chemicals and then buys back the harvest – at a loss!  400,000 ha were to be identified and a figure of 2m tonnes of maize harvested. At 5 tonnes/ha it is quite doable for less than highly skilled farmers. However only some 160,000 ha were subscribed to the scheme (or 17200 ha according to the government mouthpiece The Herald – I think a zero is missing). This amounts to about 800,000 tonnes at 5 t/ha or an average yield of 12.5 t/ha to achieve the 2m tonnes that has been much quoted, which is wishful thinking of a high order. ART farm where I used to live gets this sort of yield in a good year (which this last season was) and they farm to research standards. The farmers who this scheme targets have, at best, very ordinary farming skills. Even I, and I have basic maths skills, can see that something is badly wrong here.

Trawling the web yields some other interesting figures too. According to the Newsday site farmers started to deliver maize on the 1st April this year. Chatting to the ART farm manager yesterday he told me their maize was still at 14% moisture so hadn’t been harvested (it needs to be 12% or less to avoid storage problems) so I do wonder how this is possible. Is the government going to dry what must be wet maize?

I am struggling to summarize this debacle which even the most basic mathematics can reveal. Perhaps I should close with a quote from an issue of The Financial Gazette; “If figures do not lie, can anyone really give the US$500 million command agriculture initiative much of a chance given this compelling evidence of a nation that has squandered every opportunity at its disposal?”  Dated September 29 2016 it is prescient. Even the ultimate slime-ball of a politician, Jonathan Moyo, has labelled it “command ugly-culture”.

 

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Snippets

26 04 2012

The Zimbawe Air Force has one fast jet still operational. I know that because I saw it flying when I was at the Zimbabwe Orchid Society show a couple of weekends back. It is apparently an F7 of Chinese origin. I now have it on good authority from a pilot customer that the last remaining pilot capable of flying it has resigned. The Hawker Hawk jets are grounded due to a lack of spares because those horrible Brits won’t sell us the spares – it’s those pesky sanctions again. I do see the occasional Bell “Huey” helicopter around but it’s been a long time since I saw an Alouette in the sky (I should hope so, they are ancient!) and I never saw one of the Russian Hind-D helicopter gunships that were used in the DRC (which was Zaire). Do we even have ANY operational aircraft? Just as well no-one is interested in attacking us!

Keeping up with the competition can be exhausting in any economic climate. Zimbabwe of course has its own rules. My nearest competition is an Israeli-owned nursery down on Harare drive. How did they get to own property in Zimbabwe – they are hardly indigenous? Word had it (it was a while ago) that they sourced the fancy riot control vehicles with water cannons for the Zim police and were allowed to own property in return. Come to think of it I haven’t seen them around recently either. I’m sure it’s nothing to do with spares – business is business as far as the Israelis are concerned. It must be our non-existent credit rating. I digress. The nursery was set up originally for supplying rose cuttings to the region and very state-of-the-art it was too. Special plastic and automation to boot. That market collapsed with the world economic crisis so they diversified into seedlings, fertilizer and various implements – all rather pricey (their seedlings are nearly twice the price I charge). In the early days of the US dollar I used them quite a lot because they had what I wanted even though it was not that cheap. Now there are much cheaper fertilizers and plastic around and the other suppliers spell Zinc correctly on the bag; not Zunc! That always makes me suspicious. If they cannot spell correctly or at least get someone else to check the spelling what else have they got wrong? I found out from my new greenhouse sheeting supplier this week that they’d also given some of their rather nice erect-and-go greenhouses to a number of the “fat cats around town” in return for good publicity. That type of business ethics I do find bit dodgy. I do however still support the pita bread bakery on the premises – hey, it IS good pita bread!

Traffic in Harare has increased tremendously over the past 2 years. Driving skills have diminished proportionately. On Tuesday I was very nearly eradicated by a driver in the industrial sites. I was approaching Rotten Row on Coventry Road and fortunately slowing down for the T junction. A car came out of the Colcom complex on my right, drove straight across the front of my pickup and exited onto Rotten Row 4 lanes later! Luckily I saw him coming out of the corner of my eye and braked hard. I guess he missed me by about 50cm. Not a week seemingly goes by without news of yet another bus disaster and in 36 years of driving I have had my vehicle checked for roadworthiness only ONCE about 3 weeks ago on the road to the airport, near Mukuvisi Woodlands.

“Please put on your hand brake sir” said the policewoman. She then leaned rather pathetically on the door frame to check the hand brake, checked the lights and I was free to go. Admittedly most of the accidents seem to occur when minibus drivers deem themselves invincible (which is most of the time) and overtake into oncoming traffic. When are the police going to get serious about bad driving and unworthy vehicles? I guess it is not a lucrative as harassing drivers for going through amber lights and not stopping at stop streets.





The Orchid Society Show

14 04 2012

Like any troubled country we try to forget our day-to-day problems and strive for normality. The autumn show of the Orchid Society of Zimbabwe is one such event. A selection of the orchids are in the album below.

The Orchid Society of Zimbabwe has a small premises at the Mukuvisi Woodlands on the way to the airport. Quite a few orchids were for sale though I did not buy any.