Power: The Indigenous Hiccough and Coal


By Andrew Field – Follow on Twitter
Flickr_Andrew_XIThe exploitation of vast resources of coal in Botswana into viable exports to Asian and eastern nations, such as India and China has, apparently, a Zimbabwean impediment. Studies into the more viable routes to get Botswana’s coal reserves to the sea opt for routes which transverse either Namibia or Mozambique (via Zimbabwe). The latter, with its port at Ponta Techobanine, is considered the better choice. But Zimbabwe, through which this route would pass, is considered too much of a sovereign risk to would be investors.

In a loose kind of way, there are three power bases at stake in this tale of economic woe, the power of coal, electricity and then politics. Zimbabwe’s economy, it would seem, has been traumatised by each of them and there is no letting up as to when this might subside.

Zimbabwe is not without its huge coal reserves, a source of power, the better known being Hwange, but the larger comprises the huge untapped resources of the Sengwa, with its high coke value ore. Export route viability studies have actually considered the Sengwa fields as a potential partner in a rail route which would transverse Zimbabwe. One may well question quite why the Sengwa coal fields are not being fully exploited and perhaps why Zimbabwe was not ahead of Botswana in not only resourcing viable export routes to the sea, but fully implementing them too.

Electrical power is not abundant in Zimbabwe, in fact load shedding of electrical power is essential to help shoddy supply keep up with growing demand. There is a 700 megawatt shortage on the grid, and South Africa is a major supplier of the deficit. Conservative estimates suggest Zimbabwe has unpaid bills in the tune of US$150 million with its southern supplier and Zimbabwe is not ‘coughing up’. Sengwa lays for all purposes mostly idle, despite its huge indirect potential in power and export revenue generation, and Hwange is certainly not up to steam in either too.

The single most damaging power is that of the political variety or persuasion. Zimbabweans are so thoroughly pre-occupied with the consuming, if not petty, power play between one party and the other, that they seem not to be seeing the wood for the trees on the economic front which affects them most. One of the principle deterrents to foreign direct investment in Zimbabwe is the nationalist vogue towards indigenisation. Appropriation of majority stakes in foreign enterprise has become a misdirected priority. It is a highly emotive issue for local people, the majority of whom, in the long term, are really unlikely to reap its alleged empowerment benefits. Indigenisation is the tree obscuring the wood.

If anything, indigenisation has done more to scuttle economic growth in Zimbabwe than any other post inflation debacle policy. For a nation which so desperately needs foreign direct investment in its mining sector, not to mention others, Zimbabwe’s nationalist politicians are giving out all the wrong signals. The mining sector has borne the brunt of the first phase of indigenisation. Large mining houses have stopped all new developments; the stock market has consequently suffered a long marked depression, especially in mining counters; there is a liquidity squeeze; and no hope on the horizon that the folly might subside. Clearly, it is all a little too much for the limited minds of some politicians who espouse such damaging philosophy.

Part of the prejudice lies in the fact that Sengwa coal is not streaming down the rail routes to the sea; nor is local coal generating sufficient power to supplement the grid; nor is Zimbabwe reducing its dependence of direct foreign power imports; and now there is little hope that massive exports of Botswana’s coal will transit Zimbabwe, thus generate employment and enterprise.

It is a ludicrous state of affairs with much blind fumbling in the cesspits of political chicanery. Surprisingly, Zimbabweans are not questioning the lunacy, most likely in the naive and unlikely hope that perhaps the politicians might be right: that it will lead them to the holy grail of empowerment, wealth and happiness. Ice will form in burning coal furnaces before that happens.

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Corrupt States: Outcome Choices – Democracy or Revolution


By Andrew Field – Follow on Twitter
Flickr_Andrew_XI
One may ask, is there some correlation between democracy and corruption? It would seem there is.
Those countries with autocratic or ‘president for life’ dictatorships, or those that suffer democracy challenges, seem to have a higher ranking, for being lofty in their corruptness, than those with more stable democracies. The recently released Transparency International (TI) Corruption Perceptions Index for 2010 appears to suggest this when compared with other indices.

It is common purpose for lesser free nations to impose extreme controls to sustain their autocratic rule, and this depends upon an array of punitive legislation; a strong securotocracy of partisan service chiefs; systems of patronage, where Peter is robbed to pay Paul, in other words, the party faithful; and a generally kleptocratic ethos, opening up the stratagem for filthy corruption. Sound familiar? Zimbabwe is no stranger to this and is certainly no alien to its poor ranking on the corruption scales.

Zimbabwe, which was ranked joint 154th (with 11 other nations), of the 182 countries surveyed, joins a few other countries in the Sub-Saharan Africa region with similar poor ranking and likewise dodgy democracy records. Within the SADC region Zimbabwe is brought together with two others at the bottom of the corruption cesspool, Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The top three (least corrupt) in SADC are Botswana, Mauritius and the Seychelles (Namibia and South Africa follow, regionally, in 4th and 5th place respectively).

If one looks at the Economist Intelligence Unit’s (EIU) Democracy Index rankings… there is a striking resemblance in their rankings, give or take a few juxtaposed grades and one major exception. Swaziland ranks highly amongst least corrupt, but is rated low on the democracy rankings; synonymous with its monarchic plutocracy, perhaps. Despite this, generally, rank correlation between democracy and corruption is distinctly apparent.

The EIU index places Zimbabwe, Angola and the DRC at the bottom of the SADC democracy standings, while Botswana and Mauritius are top ranking (most democratic) SADC nations (the Seychelles seems not to have been surveyed by the EIU). Here of course is another exception, the Seychelles has strayed from democracy in recent years and perhaps it is only time before the corruption sets in there; if the supposition is correct.

If this hypothesis is anywhere near decent, then, clearly, the solutions to Zimbabwe’s corruption lay with re-democratization of the nation. The people seem to want this, but are far from ready to demonstrate their will. Some years back, Zimbabwe was actually ranked 65th in the TI rankings. This is when the economy was faring reasonably well and the then popular party was getting its own way in power sustenance. There were no threats against the king. Perhaps the corruption ranking was skewed.

Then, about came change…the politicians went and spoiled it all. There was popular resistance to constitution change, which would have entrenched the Mugabe regime; then mindless forays into the DRC to fight another dictator’s squabbles; land seizures, theft and gluttony; denial of freedoms; suppression of transparency; explosion of inflation and consummate hunger; and now indigenisation; and some even say a military coup by proxy.

The people began to resist autocratic leadership and from there on it has been a slide down the slippery slope of political self indulgence, benefiting only the kleptocracy and its patronised bureaucracy. Zimbabwe skidded to its worst on record corruption ranking in 2009 become the 11th most corrupt nation of 180 countries surveyed. All that in just 10 short years, the root cause being simply to sustain a single individual in power, so they say; with his lackey coterie reaping the trappings of his protectionism and patronage. The once popular party now has some of the wealthiest politicians; one has to presume, being the product of lousy, edacious graft.

Some may take heart that Zimbabwe has actually climbed the rankings in 2010. Can we say this is probably the prize of a Government of National Unity (GNU), with ‘new kids’ on the block? Well perhaps not. It does not seem that those ‘new kids’ will be any different. There is a growing cynicism, a new mood, which suggests any new broom, brought about by greater democracy, may not sweep quite as clean as it should. This goes against the theory.

More recently people have been pointing at the nation’s pro-democracy Prime Minister and his apparently scandalous personal affairs presently in the public domain. This is sad and consequently issues of trust are now being raised, personal failures translate to susceptibilities elsewhere. Add to this Zimbabwe’s recent, wealthiest in the World, discovery of diamonds, and one might surmise, unfairly perhaps, that the scales will tip even further down the corruption order, no matter how democratic the nation becomes.

This should be troublesome indeed for Zimbabwe’s new breed of politicians, while the older ones look over their shoulders. The race here must be who gets to the post first, true democracy or the powder keg of violent revolution. We should draw from the fact that famine may purge southern Africa in the months ahead… if we are to believe this, then Zimbabwe could well run short of food, a clear melting pot for dissent. North Africa chose violent revolution, and while the parallels are few; corruption, personal and political self indulgence were core causes. In those primers there are parallels aplenty for Zimbabwe.

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