By JOHN RUHLAND
HARARE, Zimbabwe-People in this country warn that speaking out against the government may lead to one’s disappearance, but this does not prevent people from discussing the corruption of President Mugabe’s administration.
The consensus is that Mugabe’s days are numbered, and he is busy consolidating the great personal wealth he squeezed out of Zimbabwe.
Many think he has lost his mind, citing a couple of examples: First, his expenditure of $50 million dollars daily in the war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) at a time when Zimbabweans are struggling to survive
Second, his recent two-week Christmas shopping spree in Europe, where it is said he spent millions.
Price rises for basic commodities have been devastating for Zimbabwe’s population. Bread prices have doubled during the last six months, and gasoline prices have quadrupled.
In protest, the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions organized two highly successful nationwide work stayaways in November. Mugabe responded by banning all strikes and stayaways in the country.
Zimbabwe is one of the world’s richest countries in terms of gold, platinum, wildlife, and other natural resources. Contradictorily, most of the people live in poverty. This is despite the fact that those who have jobs often work six 10-hour days.
Foreign companies, with the help of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, extract the wealth, paying the workers barely subsistence wages.
Before disbursing a loan, the World Bank and the IMF require that the government wanting the loan must sell off any publicly-owned businesses or property. (In Zimbabwe, the free universal health care the people won in the 1980 revolution has been eliminated.)
Next, the loan money is disbursed to government officials. Then the officials live comfortably for some time while the majority of people continue in abject poverty. Eventually the leaders die or are exiled.
Most of the people who were part of the government leave the country with the money they have embezzled. The majority are left in poverty, but now with large loans and interest payments they are forced to repay.
In Zimbabwe, the people do not have bank accounts or any social security, and unemployment is 50 percent. To make the interest payments, the IMF and World Bank implement Structural Adjustment Policies (SAPs), which eliminate schools, medical facilities, and other social services.
Remaining programs to improve sanitation and provide clean water that survived the original loan requirements are eliminated.
Because of the earlier privatization, the government has no income other than taxation of the people to pay the interest payments. Thus the people who were barely surviving are further enslaved with increasing taxes.
When the people aren’t pushed to their limit by the SAPs, the IMF and World Bank cause the national currency to be devalued in relationship to the hard currency the loan must be repaid in. The IMF and World Bank can make a perpetual nation of slaves through continued currency devaluations. Typically, a nation must repay the loan principal many times over.
People’s health greatly suffers from the process described above. Poverty directly causes disease through malnutrition, a lack of sanitation, and a lack of clean water.
Corrupt leaders use the misery they directly cause to continually call for international aid in the form of loans or donations. The money comes in, the leaders become rich, and the people and the health clinics receive little.
Economic aid to Africa has several purposes. The bottom line is that someone is making a great deal of money.
This is accomplished through a simple mechanism-by first corrupting the leaders of developing countries and then paying these leaders off-in order that the tremendous wealth of the land can be extracted and robbed from the people.
Donations of food have the same effect, as the corrupted government officials distribute it to people or even companies that support the government. Few aid programs actually help the people.
Most of the people in Zimbabwe and other parts of Africa are poor, can barely afford to eat enough calories to survive, and rarely eat fresh vegetables, which are necessary to provide essential nutrients.
Malnutrition is perhaps the main reason people’s immune systems are unable to fend off illness-which contributes to AIDS.
The main way to decrease disease in Africa is to eliminate poverty. The only way to eliminate poverty is to stop interfering with these countries’ autonomy, and to stop subsidizing companies and those they corrupt, who together rob the resources from the people.