Of Cyclones, uncertainty

IN Zimbabwe cyclones off the Mozambique coast are almost always bad news.  Typically, our rainfall starts in November each year and runs through to March or April. 

A week or so ago a deep tropical depression developed over the lower Zambezi valley and Malawi. This sucked all the atmospheric moisture out of the region and dumped it on a large area just north of the Zimbabwe border. 

The outcome was floods in Malawi and the lower Zambezi basin — they had to open the sluice gates at Cahora Bassa Dam and release millions of tonnes of water into the river below the dam.  The system moved slowly down the river and out to sea and in the process rapidly grew into a full blown cyclone – grade 4.

The cyclone then moved south down the Mozambique channel and drifted towards landfall at the Port of Beira – there it created havoc.
It smashed port facilities and cut all communications with the rest of the country and its neighbour Zimbabwe.  The damage to infrastructure and crops is immense and hundreds of thousands have been made homeless — even today we have no communications with Beira except by cell phone.

At the edge of the system when it disintegrated, Harare got 30 to 50mls of rain and so did a significant area of the country — but farms to the west and south got little and remain drought stricken — so we have flood devastation and drought all in one small country. 

A cold front is approaching through South Africa and that might help in the south and west next week. As if not to be left out, Britain has slipped deeper and deeper into a morass of uncertainty over Brexit. 
When this was first mooted two years ago I said it would never work. 
The British economy is simply too dependent on its links with Europe, they cannot afford to “go it alone” without a special relationship with the continent. 

I give Theresa May a prize for stubborn single mindlessness but she cannot escape the reality that Britain cannot go it alone into the future.  But the main enemy is none of these threats — physical or institutional, its uncertainty. The United States no longer rules the world, the driving force of massive economic growth in the past 50 years, international trade and constant liberalisation and globalisation, are all under threat. 

The consequence is that the great majority of the world are living in a state of constant uncertainty about the future. Everyone now knows that social cyclones are developing in almost every part of the world and that management of the outcome might well determine the future of the world in which we live. It is a scary thought.

Here in Zimbabwe our situation is no less uncertain and confused.
We have a new government under Emmerson Mnangagwa and this has committed itself to a process of re- engagement with the outside world and to making the conditions needed for that a reality in the form of a programme of political and economic reform. 

Both have made a confused and slow start but the achievements so far, are notable. The new government has embarked on far reaching reforms to the political system, repressive legislation that has haunted us for over 70 years has been scrapped, reforms to our democracy give us some hope that the next elections will be free and fair. 

Our 2013 Constitution is being implemented, albeit slowly.
On the economic front, if I was on the IMF Team responsible for Zimbabwe, I would regard our new Finance minister as something of a miracle worker.  He fixed our massive fiscal deficit in six weeks, he has followed a systematic and controlled programme of reform which has gradually liberalised our economy and has now floated our currency. 

But it is not enough, we need to know where we are going and how we are going to get there.  We need a strong social contract with labour and business and a clear vision of the future.
In fact, I think that applies to virtually the whole world today.

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